Cubs

Cubs don’t worry about putting even bigger target on their backs

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Cubs don’t worry about putting even bigger target on their backs

MESA, Ariz. — One mime stood on a platform playing air guitar as the classic rock blasted from the sound system at the Sloan Park complex on Tuesday morning, Cubs players going through the motions of their pre-workout stretch.

The other mime performed in the middle of the field. Cubs strength-and-conditioning coach Tim Buss had his face painted white and black and wore white gloves, black yoga pants, a white tank top and a black beret turned backwards.

Joe Maddon Productions has already brought this camp Munenori Kawasaki karaoke, a 70s hippie van and a sledgehammer-swinging, cement-brick breaking motivational speaker.

The Cubs aren’t just “Embracing The Target.” In a game with too many unwritten rules, on the day Sports Illustrated released their baseball preview covers, and the morning after more Donald Trump nonsense, the World Series favorites seemed to be making that target bigger and bigger and bigger.

“If everybody’s (not) entertained, so be it, but that’s just our way to start the day,” Maddon said. “We did that last year without nearly as much attention. When I was with the Angels, ‘Scios’ (manager Mike Scioscia) did his own little gig on a daily basis inside. It’s just the way our venue sets up and the fact that we permit so much access. That’s the way everybody’s able to see it.

“If people misinterpret it, honestly, that’s their fault, because it’s really just about the esprit de corps of the day. It has nothing to do with your work, except that I think your work can be better because you get off to a good start.”

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

The mime wasn’t actually Maddon’s idea. It was all “Bussy,” who’s wildly popular among players, almost tricking them into doing work with his energy and a sense of humor that has helped him hold onto this job since 2001. (Maddon did endorse the mime’s message to the team: “He was very loquacious with his hands.”)

But the manager almost always gets too much credit or too much blame. The Cubs aren’t an in-between team. It’s World Series or bust. It’s Maddon’s easy-going personality and laissez-faire attitude that sets the mood here.

“Who knows what’s going on in that mind storm?” pitcher Jason Hammel said. “(With) that tornado in his head, who knows what’s going on? So I’m sure he’ll come up with something else that’s going to blow the mime away, too.”

With all the extracurricular stuff going on, this Cactus League game felt even more like background noise than normal. But Hammel again looked sharp during a 9-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds, allowing one run across five innings at Goodyear Ballpark. For a team that has as much talent on paper as anyone in baseball, the optics don’t matter nearly as much as staying healthy and staying focused.

[MORE: Cubs won't get into a war of words with Donald Trump]

Hammel expects the gimmicks after being part of Maddon’s worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays team that made it to the 2008 World Series.

“It takes a certain group of guys to be able to — not necessarily pull this off — but to have that type of environment,” Hammel said. “It starts with character. And that’s what these guys and this organization have prided themselves on — bringing in guys with good character that know how to understand this is just a different way of getting through a kind of mundane and sometimes boring part of the season.

“Obviously, I’m sure there’s some people out there that think we’re pretty weird. It doesn’t look like a normal spring training. But everybody’s allowed an opinion, right? We see it as fun.”

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...