The only Harper in attendance at the Sheraton Grand Chicago over the weekend was the Winter Storm Harper, not that dude named Bryce.
The Cubs seamlessly jumped from Cole Hamels to Kyle Hendricks in the alphabetical introductions at Opening Ceremonies Friday night, crushing the dreams of anybody who believed there would be a surprise visit from the superstar outfielder.
"The sad thing is it's going to be snowing this much in April too," one fan quipped. And it doesn't look like Harper will be in a Cubs uniform by then, either, as Theo Epstein reiterated it's "extremely unlikely" the Cubs sign a mega free agent of any kind this winter.
But that didn't stop Cubs fans, players, coaches and executives from having a blast at the 34th annual Convention.
Here are some of the top moments from the 2019 fan fest:
♦♦Bryant made headlines and pissed off the entirety of Cardinals Nation when he jokingly said St. Louis is "boring" during the late-night show with Ryan Dempster.
It wound up becoming the talk of the Convention.
♦♦Kyle Hendricks was asked about any pranks he's played on his teammates and he confirmed he is not a big prankster (big surprise there), but did reference one time last year when a teammate hid in Anthony Rizzo's locker with an airhorn and jumped out to scare the Cubs first baseman.
♦♦Daniel Descalso has been the only real addition to the 2019 roster and the former Cardinal wasted no time endearing himself to Cubs fans.
A young fan asked Descalso which convention is better — Cubs or Cardinals? Descalso didn't even let the kid finish his question before he said: "This one."
♦♦This great story about Cubs draft pick Cole Roederer came on the last panel of the weekend Sunday morning with Cubs Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Jason McLeod and Director of Player Development Jaron Madison:
McLeod told story about Cole Roederer (draft pick out of HS last summer) who introduced himself to a group of players this winter in Arizona and asked one guy where he played in 2018.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 20, 2019
The response? "Chicago...Wrigley Field..."
It was Ben Zobrist. Roederer didn't recognize him.
♦♦As usual, a great hand for Kerry Wood:
♦♦A couple fans were playing a drinking game during Theo Epstein's session, taking a sip every time the Cubs president reminded folks the team actually won 95 games in 2018 or referenced the sense of urgency surrounding the organization this year.
♦♦Kris Bryant: The Hitting Poet
Fan asks Kris Bryant what it feels like to hit a home run.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 19, 2019
Bryant said it just felt like the best feeling in the world and didn't know how else to describe it.
Zobrist to KB: "You're like a hitting poet bro."
♦♦There are always a lot of random jerseys at any Cubs Convention, but one of the weirdest I've ever seen came this winter: an Arismendy Alcantara shirsey.
I totally understand wanting to sport your favorite Cubs gear over the weekend — and that may include a Mark Grace jersey, Sammy Sosa button down or even a Corey Patterson shirsey — but Arismendy Alcantara? Dude played only half a season's worth of games in Chicago (81) between 2014-15.
And no, it wasn't actually Arismendy Alcantara wearing his own jersey.
Very odd, but maybe that was the point?
♦♦Somehow, Theo made it through an entire hour-long panel facing somewhere around 20 questions from fans without anybody bringing up Harper by name.
♦♦Anthony Rizzo wasn't able to attend the Convention this year due to a conflict with his honeymoon, but he Facetimed in anyways:
♦♦Why did Kyle Hendricks decide to become a pitcher?
Kyle Hendricks when asked why he chose to be a professional pitcher:— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) January 19, 2019
"I couldn't hit"
♦♦One kid has a future in journalism, asking Theo point-blank: "Do you plan on bringing Joe Maddon back as manager next year?"
Theo responded by saying, "I certainly hope so."
♦♦Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease were brought up multiple times by fans in the "Down on the Farm" segment with McLeod and Madison. Two fans asked about the former top prospects in the same span of 5 minutes and each time, McLeod and Madison reiterated the same thing the organization has said for nearly two years now: The Cubs felt it was worth it to make the deal with the White Sox to acquire a stable workhorse in their rotation for years to come in Jose Quintana.
♦♦One fan (looked to be in his mid-20s or so) started off his question to Theo by letting everybody know his cat is named Theo. He then proceeded to ask Theo — a Patriots fan — if he thinks Tom Brady is the GOAT and if so, has he ever seen Aaron Rodgers play?
Theo joked about how he watched Khalil Mack get the best of Rodgers this year before admitting that yes, he believes Brady is the greatest QB of all time.
♦♦Kyle Farnsworth was in attendance and as Pat Hughes introduced him during Opening Ceremonies, the voice of Cubs radio touted the former relievers' ability to throw the ball 100 mph, prompting this comment from a fan:
"They should bring him back and add him to this year's bullpen."
Farnsworth is 42 and hasn't played professional baseball in years, but the Cubs could certainly use another reliever (even by their own admission), so it's hard to blame the fan.
♦♦Does Ben Zobrist prefer playing outfield or infield?
"Infield," the 37-year-old said because he "doesn't have to run as far."
♦♦KB's got jokes:
Young fan: "What is the worst thing you've done in your life that nobody knows about?"— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 19, 2019
Kris Bryant: "I've never done a bad thing in my life..."
♦♦A teenager felt the need to start his "question" by telling a panel of Bryant, Zobrist Willson Contreras and Javy Baez that he has "had trouble getting girls lately" and proceeded to ask for a picture.
♦♦The second fan question of 2019 Cubs Con was a fan who began by thanking Maddon for letting Rizzo pitch last year.
♦♦New Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta joked MLB could speed up pace of play by having a bullpen cart for every reliever coming into the game...or a Harley Davidson for guys to ride to the mound on.
♦♦Towards the end of the coaches panel, a kid got on the microphone to ask Maddon if he still supports the decision to let Pedro Strop hit for himself on that fateful afternoon in Washington D.C. on Sept. 13. (That was the play Strop injured his hamstring on and he went on to make just one appearance the rest of the season — in the NL Wild-Card Game.)
Maddon maintained the same stance he's taken since then — saying any criticism of the decision now is outcome bias and he can't predict injuries on any given play.
♦♦One fan asked Maddon "what he's going to do about" the fact only a few Cubs players show up for the National Anthem at Wrigley Field, calling it "embarrassing" and a "disgrace."
Maddon handled it well, defending the players and saying the National Anthem often falls at a tough time for most guys when they're still preparing for the game.
It's worth noting: the Anthem is optional in baseball. Every sport is different, so just because the NHL or NBA players line up and face the flag for those 2-3 minutes doesn't mean MLB will be the same.
Maybe they should, but regardless of where you stand on that issue, it's not Maddon's responsibility to police all 25 of his players to be attentive for the National Anthem. He's got plenty else to worry about.
♦♦Some fans asking questions are just savage:
Fan to a panel of Bryant/Zobrist/Javy/Willson: "This is a question for all you guys, though obviously Kris Bryant is the best."— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) January 19, 2019
♦♦One fan told Mark Loretta how excited he was for the new Cubs bench coach to join the staff because the guy's mom is named "Loretta" and his dad is named "Mark."