MESA, Ariz. - The Cubs were just about to conclude their pre-workout meeting Thursday when something caught their eyes, causing a ripple of excitement to filter through the entire spring roster.
Dexter Fowler came strolling out onto the field alongside Theo Epstein, but it took a few moments for anybody - media or players - to realize what was happening.
"I gave Dex a hug and told him, 'Man, I'm gonna miss ya,'" David Ross said. "I still was off. I was like, 'Wait a minute...'
"Everybody was looking around kind of dumbfounded. Theo got us all. Theo pulled one over."
The rumors around the baseball world for the previous 48 hours was that Fowler was heading to the Baltimore Orioles on a three-year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million guaranteed.
Instead, the Cubs dealt Chris Coghlan to the Oakland A's Thursday morning, clearing room for Fowler's dramatic entrance.
Several Cubs had even reached out to Fowler about his deal with the O's.
"I actually congratulated him because he didn't file for unemployment," Anthony Rizzo said. "I'm super excited to have him. Obviously he was one of my favorite guys last year on this team. It's a great addition for us.
"I told him maybe a week or two ago, 'Listen, if you sign back with us and you don't tell me and you just show up, I'm not gonna have that.' Obviously, no one knew. It was a pretty cool moment."
Joe Maddon gathered the players in a group huddle on top of the pitcher's mound on one of the practice fields and told them they were gonna have a "moment" before the workout began.
But with Maddon, that could mean anything - zoo animals, a magician, a spaceship, who knows?
"He told us not to look around and knowing me, I had to look around a little bit," Kyle Schwarber said. "I was like, 'Man, that really does look like Dexter walking down here. I thought he was with the Orioles.'
"Then you see him go on the field. That lifted my day by a lot right there. It was great to see him."
Jason Hammel thought it was an animal or a circus.
Ross thought they were pulling a prank on noted funnyman Munenori Kawasaki.
Rizzo had heard an inkling of a possible shocker, but didn't think it was Fowler.
"I ran into Theo [Wednesday]. He said, 'Hey I got a surprise for you guys,'" Rizzo said. "But when someone says a surprise, you think an elephant, a giraffe showing up.
"You don't know. That was the last thing on my mind or anyone's mind. Then Dexter rolls in. It's pretty cool."
The Cubs maintained not one player knew about Fowler's surprise re-signing. No media member had anything close to resembling a scoop. The world of Twitter and social media couldn't blow the lid off this one.
"Nobody knew," Fowler said. "It was crazy because I'm getting text messages. ... It was like breaking up with your girlfriend and they don't text you for a few days because they're mad. They saw that Baltimore stuff.
"Rizzo texted me [Wednesday] and was like, 'Hey man, congrats, you got a job. I'm gonna miss you.' And then you're sitting there and it's like, 'I can't wait to surprise you!'"
Fowler said he joked with Cubs teammates about a month ago that they were going to just show up one day and see a locker for Fowler with his Jordan gear in there.
"I was saying it's crazy how things happen, and then this happens," Fowler said.
Fowler was well-liked within the Cubs clubhouse and his teammates were asked often about their reaction to him still being unsigned with spring training starting around the league.
Cubs players - as well as Cubs Twitter - hoped for a reunion.
But nobody expected anything like this.
"I don't know that one guy didn't have a smile on their face today," Ross said. "Looking around, I saw a lot of happy guys on the team."