Saturday was a full day at the 27th annual as I attended session after session from 9am to 6pm.
The day started in the Grand Ballroom with "Behind the Scenes with Theo Epstein" hosted by Len Kasper. Cubs fans got their chance to address the new President. One thing that I took away from this session is the fact that Epstein is one smart guy. His intelligence and baseball knowledge were evident throughout the session. Epstein was impressed by the outpouring of support by the Cubs fans. He said that it is nice to put together a team that people care about. His biggest challenge with switching organizations is getting to know every player throughout the minor league system. Epstein said that he will remember the Kerry Wood moment the rest of his life. He also mentioned the he is a little embarrassed by all the attention he has received.
I took in the first half of the "Player Development: From the DR to Mesa" session. Oneri Fleita and Crane Kenney explained their future plans for the Cubs facilities in the Dominican Republic and Mesa and showed a power point with neat pictures of both. Welington Castillo also shared some interesting stories about growing up playing baseball in the Dominican.
After that I headed down to the "From the Field to the Booth" session. Bob Brenly, Keith Moreland, Rick Sutcliffe, Gary Matthews, Rick Monday and host Dave Otto talked about the challenges of going from the playing field to the broadcast booth. All of them shared their most embarrassing moments on air and shared some funny stories. Monday has a great radio voice and was a good storyteller. Sutcliffe, Matthews and Moreland also stuck in a few stories about the 1984 Cubs. They also shared their favorite Haray Caray stories.
Next up was my favorite session of the day "Ron Santo: Beyond the Game." Pat Hughes, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert, Billy Williams, Vicki Santo and Ron Santo Jr. shared their thoughts on Santo's election to Cooperstown. Hundley was hilarious throughout the panel, poking fun at his ex-teammates, especially Beckert. Williams described his involvement in the Golden Era Committee. Hughes reiterated the fact that Ronnie's numbers were HOF worthy event without the character and likability that he brought with him. Vicki Santo will have the honor of delivering Ron's acceptance speech in Cooperstown in July.
After that, I headed to the "Coaches' Den" session. Host Bob Brenly introduced Cubs fans to manager Dale Sveum, pitching coach Chris Bosio, bench coach Jamie Quirk and first base coach Dave McKay. Bullpen coach Lester Strode and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo were both welcomed back. Sveum was asked several times about how he will handle lackadaisical play. He stressed the fact that he expects his players to play hard and will hold them accountable if they do not. Sveum tossed out David DeJesus and Darwin Barney as lead-off options.
The annual "Ricketts Family Forum" took place next in the Grand Ballroom. Len Kasper talked with the owners of the Cubs and fielded a large number of questions from the audience. Most fans seemed please with the direction that the family has the organization going in. However, many also offered their suggestions. Among them were eliminating the guest conductors of the 7th Inning Stretch and playing a recording of Haray Caray instead, asking fans to contribute to the renovations of Wrigley Field, removing the "Cubbies" moniker, banning the wave at Wrigley and putting Ronnie Fund donation boxes around the ballpark with proceeds going to JDRF.
I caught the last half hour of the "When Super Fans Unite" segment recalling 1984 with Gary Matthews, Keith Moreland, Rick Sutcliffe and Lee Smith. The guys from '84 had a good time sharing their stories and talking about their favorite games from that season. Matthews mentioned that he believes that it is a shame that Ryne Sandberg has not receive a chance to manage in the big leagues. Sarge believes that Ryno will make a great manager.
The day of Cubs talk concluded with WGN Radio's Sports Central with Glen Kozlowski and Jim Memolo. New Cubs Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood all seemed excited about the change to pitch in Chicago. Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger are looking forward for the chance to win a roster spot in Spring Training. Chris Carpenter, Casey Coleman and James Russell talked about various pitching topics. Russell is feeling good and ready to go for the season. Mike Bielecki, Vance Law and Dwight Smith of the 1989 team were on the final half hour of Sports Central. All three feel that the team should have been able to beat the Giants. Law mentioned that he thought that the Cubs would have won the World Series had they gotten there. Smith stressed to the younger members of the audience that steroids are not the rout to take and not worth the risk.
Tomorrow the convention will round out with two final sessions. I'll keep you posted!