What a difference a year makes.
Cubs Convention 2017 brought with it a ton of emotional moments as fans constantly discussed their own personal World Series championship moments and there were many "thank you"s to Cubs players and personnel.
But there was also some negativity, as Cubs fans grilled Joe Maddon about his pitching decisions - why he kept Aroldis Chapman in so long or why he pulled Kyle Hendricks so early, etc.
2018 featured a much more laid-back approach.
Maddon made it more than 31 minutes into his panel before his pitching decisions were second-guessed. Fans were still appreciative of anybody who contributed to the championship drought, but they're also hungry for more and wanting to know what the organization is doing to win another World Series in 2018.
With that, here are the best sights and sounds from the weekend:
♦♦This was easily the best moment of the Convention (Warning: NSFW language):
That amazing Jon Lester pick-off? He's got an profanity-laced Willson Contreras mound visit to thank for it. https://t.co/c00L55UGzb— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 13, 2018
And Schwarber's reaction to it was incredible, too:
.@WContreras40's profanity-laden advice to @JLester34 was easily the best moment at #CubsCon, and @kschwarb12's instant reaction to seeing it topped it off: https://t.co/RimE3xqs46 pic.twitter.com/fnh1xPE1PG— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 14, 2018
Apparently Contreras is willing to sign his new catch phrase on a bat, too:
He'll also sign it on a bat pic.twitter.com/K3eRBIs5qY— Scott Hopfinger (@scottyhop76) January 13, 2018
♦♦A young fan won our NBC Sports Chicago contest and got a chance to meet Addison Russell Saturday.
Grace's dad is deployed in Afghanistan for the third time and we surprised her by bringing her and her mom up to meet Russell. While everybody was waiting at the security desk, Kris Bryant walked through one of the side entrances, saw Grace holding a cheer card and asked, "What's an Authentic Fan?" To which Grace responded - "We are!"
Watch the video of her meeting Russell here:
At #CubsCon, Grace let us know she was an #AuthenticFan. Her dad, Mike, is currently on his third deployment in Afghanistan and we wanted to share with him her Authentic @Cubs Surprise at the convention...meeting @Addison_Russell. pic.twitter.com/ERrHN6laZW— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 13, 2018
♦♦There were many funny moments from the weekend, but one of the best lines was from chairman Tom Ricketts.
In talking about the changes to Wrigley Field in 2018, Ricketts said the notoriously cramped and outdated visitor's clubhouse "may have hot water this year."
♦♦Ricketts also told a story Saturday of an interaction he had with FOX staffers after the Cubs won the NLCS in 2016 and received a trophy:
FOX: "There's something for your trophy case."
Ricketts: "We're the Cubs, we don't have a trophy case."
♦♦Todd Ricketts shared a story of an experience he had with a fan following the magical fall of 2016.
Two brothers had Cubs World Series tickets and one of the brothers ended up having a stroke and had to go to the hospital right before the game they were supposed to attend.
Todd: "Sorry you had to miss the game."
Fan: "Oh, I didn't miss it. As soon as I heard he was gonna live, I grabbed a buddy and went to the game!"
♦♦The best shirt seen at Cubs Convention:
Saw a fan wearing a shirt at Cubs Convention that simply said:— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 14, 2018
Javy Baez is hot
♦♦Some of the best moments come from kids getting up to the microphones and asking questions to Cubs players or staff. One young man got up to the mic and first thanked Theo Epstein for his advice to the fan at a previous convention about how to get a job working in baseball.
The fan then asked the front office how they can find a way to finally get some use out of all those pitchers they've drafted over the years with the Cubs who have yet to make an impact in the big leagues.
Epstein joked that the kid really built up the front office's confidence before shutting them down. Newly-promoted assistant GM Scott Harris jokingly got up and offered the kid a seat his own seat on the podium.
♦♦Another kid asked Theo Epstein when he should get his own Bryce Harper Cubs jersey.
Epstein: "Ask Kris Bryant. He seems to own a bunch of 'em."
♦♦The first question to Epstein and the front office panel also came from a kid keepin' it real: "What happened to all the pitching in the NLCS??"
♦♦Another kid question to Cubs front office: "Are you going after Yu Darvish?
Kid proceeds to list off teams Darvish is reportedly interested in, including the Cubs.
Epstein: "Wow, you're way more on top of it than our writers are."
♦♦Yeah, yeah, Kyle Schwarber is all skinny now. But Albert Almora Jr. looks like he's in great shape, too. It's not like Almora has ever really looked out of shape, but he looks skinnier and has spent the last month or so working out in Arizona in anticipation of playing a much larger role on the 2018 Cubs.
♦♦Maddon loves his coaching staff, calling it right up there with the best coaching staff he's ever been a part of. Now, he says something along those lines every single year, but this time, the entire staff is filled with guys he hand-picked himself.
If this coaching staff doesn't work out for whatever reason, more blame than ever will fall on Maddon's shoulders.
That being said, every coach he brought on - particularly hitting coach Chili Davis, pitching coach Jim Hickey and third-base coach Brian Butterfield - is highly, highly respected around the league.
♦♦Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello said his favorite player growing up was Steve Garvey. Assistant hitting coach Andy Haines said his favorite player was Ozzie Smith.
Both were booed roundly by the Chicago faithful.
♦♦Fan asking Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said: "Nachos were never harder to find [at Wrigley] than last year." Then proceeded to try to pump up the crowd by asking if there were any nacho fans out there.
It was weird.
♦♦One of the oddest hot takes from the Convention was a fan saying he hates the baskets in the outfield at Wrigley. Not sure I've heard that one before and other fans there did not appreciate it (he was booed mercilessly).
♦♦Who is Kyle Schwarber's celebrity crush? Well...
♦♦This adorable fan:
♦♦Pretty awesome gender reveal with the help of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo:
♦♦An awesome selfie from the Kapman:
♦♦Dillon Maples showing young fan how he holds his slider and arm slot:
Dillon Maples showing a young fan how he holds his slider. Later showed him the arm slot, too. pic.twitter.com/6QWs9Ky4Ri— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 14, 2018
♦♦Derrek Lee was asked what homer was most memorable from his career. He said his first one ever, but then also said one in the first couple months he was a Cub.
He had been traded for Hee Seop Choi and got off to a rough start in Chicago, struggling at the plate. He would hear fans chanting "Hee Seop Choi! Hee Seop Choi!" whenever he came up to the plate.
Lee finally broke through once at Wrigley and hit a grand slam. He said Saturday he will never forget that curtain call.
♦♦D-Lee and Big Z were an absolute riot. They had a great rapport and could probably work in comedy if they wanted.
Both players gave each other good-natured crap and Zambrano was hilarious in response to several questions, like a fan asking if he ever had any regrets from his playing career.
"Next question..." he said to laughs.
♦♦Zambrano also signed a Gatorade bottle for a fan since you know, he loves Gatorade so much...
♦♦Zambrano's dig on Lee was classic:
Derrek Lee said he loves watching Anthony Rizzo play 1B for Cubs now.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 13, 2018
Zambrano, joking with Lee: "Me too. I wish I could've had him playing 1B when I pitched."
♦♦How did Lee celebrate the Cubs World Series? Watching with family as they all wore Cubs jerseys. He admitted he was jealous he couldn't be a part of the team that ended the drought, which - I imagine - is a common refrain among former Cubs, especially those that played rather recently.
♦♦In case anybody cares, Ronnie Woo Woo would like to see Ladies Night back at Wrigley Field.
♦♦Let's end on some breaking news:
You guys may not believe this but Theo says the Cubs' goal in 2018 is to win the World Series.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 13, 2018