For an all-inclusive $60, you’ll be able to meet Clark, the new furry Cubs mascot whom all the fuss is about.
Also part of the package is rubbing shoulders with new Cubs manager Rick Renteria, reportedly a very affable guy.
And a must are the back-to-back Saturday morning beef sessions, pointed questions being tossed from agitated fans to Cubs ownership and baseball operations top brass.
Wrapped up in the middle, for another $150, is a “TGIF” funtime at a famous bar-eatery where fans can eat, drink and be merry, served by baseball and broadcast celebrities.
Such are a few of the highlights of the 29th annual Cubs Convention and Kerry Wood’s Winter Warm-up, the two concurrent hot-stove league events this weekend in downtown Chicago. For varying prices (see accompanying chart), fans can cure themselves of cabin fever with both serious and comic doses of baseball.
But before they navigate the crowds at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers and Kerry Wood’s Winter Warm-up at Navy Pier, the Cubs’ constituency surely will want to meet Clark, the youthful bear mascot unveiled to a storm of Twitter reaction this week, at the Convention. Not only are fans weighing in, often negatively, to the Cubs’ first-ever mascot in 160-character bursts, but they are responding sometimes 800-strong in longer mini-essays to on-line articles about Clark.
"I'm disappointed at some of the unfortunate images that went from negative to despicable," Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications and community affairs, told ESPNChicago.com. "There are some folks that had strong reactions to the mascot, but at the same time, there are folks that see what we're trying to do. It's strictly for kids and family entertainment."
In addition to sizing up Clark in person, fans will have a chance to meet Renteria, who was hired to replace two-year skipper Dale Sveum, ostensibly to improve communication with young players.
Even more than Clark, the fireworks of the convention should take place in the main ballroom between 9 and 11 a.m. Saturday. Back-to-back sessions featuring Cubs ownership and baseball management are scheduled then.
Questions for the panelists come fast and are often furious from a usually packed house. The heat panelists will feel has been turned up each year the team’s tear-down/rebuilding program has not produced a winning season.
Meanwhile, longtime convention-goers will notice fewer vendors hawking baseball-oriented wares than ever before. Crain’s Chicago Business reported the number of vendors has been cut to under 35 from 75 a few years ago. Skyrocketing booth rental fees and the Cubs’ active efforts to cut down competitors selling licensed items were the main causes.
One booth that will continue to operate belongs to Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins' foundation. Jenkins will sign autographs along with fellow Cooperstown enshrinees Gaylord Perry and Rollie Fingers.
Meanwhile, fans, players and team brass repair to Cubs icon Wood’s annual charity event after the convention’s opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. tonight have concluded.
Harry Caray’s Tavern, at which the event is being held, will serve “Wood’s Smokin’ Pitch” tequila cocktail to further raise money for Wood’s family foundation. Additional fund-raising is obtained from tips garnered by the celebrity bartenders.
Radio personality Pete McMurray serves as co-host for the Warm-up.