2018 Cubs Convention report

Tony Kozelichki

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It is April 15 and it's snowing in western Illinois. Plus, I'm not feeling all that well. All three baseball games that were to be on TV today were postponed, and I was looking back on some of my past postings and realized I never reported on this year's Cubs Convention. Here goes...

The convention was held January 12-14 at the Chicago Sheraton downtown, site of the last several years. Changes over the past couple of years mean I generally have a good idea of what to expect heading in to the weekend. I did, however, learn a few things.

Check in at the hotel on Friday morning was a breeze. Much better than the trip. My wife and I actually drove across the state the night before in a snow/ice storm to meet our daughter, who was supposed to come to our house from Champaign. The weather left me concerned about her driving, and so I ventured out. Once we got to Peoria (a 2-hour trip that normally takes an hour), the temperature improved dramatically. By the time we got to Champaign, at 7:00 that night, it was 47-degrees. That wouldn't last.

We spent the night at her apartment and left the next morning for the 2-hour trip to Chicago. Overnight, the storm had followed us east and struck. Getting to Chicago was no treat, but we made it in a little more than 3 hours.

Once at the hotel, my wife and daughter took our luggage upstairs as I made my way to the basement to get our passes. An hour later, I had the four (my daughter's boyfriend decided not to come and I had already paid for the pass--a good move on my part). Along with the passes came four pull tabs for premium autographs. This year's premiums were Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, David Ross, Derek Lee, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Carlos Zambrano, Andre Dawson, Ian Happ, Carl Edwards, Kyle Schwarber, Dillon Maples and Ryne Sandberg). The only players from the 2016 team that would be signing in general lines were Rob Zastryzny, Justin Grimm, Tommy LaStella and Mike Montgomery.

As someone trying to collect autographed balls from every member of the '16 team, and already having Rob Z and Grimm, I was pretty much out of luck when my first three pull tabs turned up nothing. The fourth one, the one that would have gone to my girl's boyfriend, came up with Zambrano's name. Now, most people would be disappointed, but I actually needed Z's autograph on an '08 division champions ball I've been working on for 10-years, leaving me with just a half dozen or so autographs to get. My daughter wanted to stand in line for it, and I had no problem. She's actually a pretty attractive girl and came back telling me how nice Zambrano was. I wonder why.

The Cubs this year did offer more autograph opportunities than ever before. Besides the premium signings (125 each) they had 63 signing sessions involving 72 players each signing 125 autographs over a one-hour session. All you had to do was secure one of the tickets, which sometimes meant standing in line a couple of hour. My daughter and I did that to secure Matt Murton's signature on both 07 and 08 balls.

25 of the 40 current roster players were in attendance along with more than 40 alumni. Not in attendance was Fergie Jenkins, whose foundation charges $20 per autograph with funds going to JDRF. With Jenkins absent, Andre Dawson filled in virtually the entire weekend. $20 to get anything signed by Dawson! Also in the booth throughout the weekend were Bobby Dernier, Jody Davis, Bill Buckner and Lee Smith. If I had known Buckner were going to be there, I would have brought my '77 Coke can.

As for the '16 Cubs who I could get, LaStella cancelled his autograph session while I was in line (replaced by Eddie Butler) and Montgomery was only in a kids only line. My daughter is 23 (but looks a lot younger, which vexes her because she's a high school teacher who is often confused for a student). She refused to get in the line. However, a coaching friend of mine has a daughter at my high school and she agreed to land Montgomery's autograph for me.

Since I didn't do a lot of autograph chasing, I was able to enjoy the sessions presented. We all attending the opening ceremonies (as always, an awesome highlight video I wish they would make available to the general public), Ryan Dempster's talk show (always good, especially with David Ross), Rickett's family, Joe Maddon and staff, Hitters (Bryant, Rizzo, Contreras, Heyward, Russell), Business Ops, Jeopardy, and Brickhouse/Caray retrospective.

At the Jeopardy game, a team of old timers (Jody Davis, Jon Lieber, Pete LaCock and Bobby Dernier) stayed afterward a signed autographs for just about everybody whereas the '08 Cubs (Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill, Matt Murton and James Russell) all got up immediately after it was over and left. The Cubs, in general, have gotten away from allowing players to sign after organized sessions, but this was the last one of the day and the old timers get it, knowing what the fans come for.

The 2016 World Series trophy was on display and was easily accessible, unlike last year when there was a 2-3 hour wait to see it. Also on display in the same room was memorabilia from past Cub MVP's like Banks, Hartnett, Sandburg, Cavaretta, Dawson, Sosa and Bryant. A very nice display that also featured '69 and '84 items.

Like '16, there was a good selection of vendors (which wasn't present in the early years at the Sheraton). If you were looking for '16 World Series items, you could find a lot of stuff marked down. I picked up a Columbia wind breaker with a '16 World Champion logo for $15 and my wife and daughter were each able to pick up that year's T-shirts and sweatshirts for $5 and $10. I found a few items for my personal collection, bought a Jason Heyward autographed ball for $40 (better than waiting in line, as far as I'm concerned), and an older 80's National League baseball for $10 that I will save for vintage autographing in the future.

The team did auction off a lot of stuff this year, as opposed to last year's convention when there was very little available. Unfortunately, nothing caught my eye. The team did give away flags of the retired players to bingo winners on Saturday night, but my card sucked worse than any I've ever had and I never win at bingo anyway. Still looking for that Santo flag.

Picked up a grab bad for $30 and got a last out dual bobblehead of Rizzo and Bryant and various other stadium giveaways. Was hoping for a replica World Series trophy.

What I did learn was that for $250 admission to Kerry Wood's fundraiser on Friday night, I probably could have walked away with autographed balls from just about every 2016 Cub. Maybe that will be a needed stop next January.

Since current players no longer stay at the Sheraton over the weekend, access is very limited. Maybe I have to spend a few hundred extra to land the merchandise I need for my collection.

And, I'm sorry to Craig (Loyalty32) for not filing this in a timely manner.
 

Loyalty32

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Tony - I received a shoutout in the 2018 Cubs Convention Report! You made my day! (All is forgiven! It was worth the wait!) I always look forward to this! I would've loved to seen the look on your daughters face when you asked her to stand in the kids only line! Also, she may need to reconsider that boyfriend of hers. He didn't want to go!?!? Just kidding! (Sort of...) I always appreciate and enjoy the Report! I'm glad you all made it to and from safely! GO CUBS GO!

Thanks
Craig
 

Tony Kozelichki

Active member
555
5.00 star(s)
I forgive the boyfriend. He's a doctoral student at the University of Illinois and had some major work to do that weekend. Plus, he's a soccer fan and I think he only tolerates baseball and the Cubs. You're right, though, on the comment about the look on her face. I'm probably going to have to wait on grandkids to pull off another "kids only" signing.
 
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