Cubs' wacky 'day off': Kris Bryant hits into river, Kyle Schwarber poses as mannequin and more

No rest for some of the weary Cubs.

After a late night Monday at Wrigley, Cubs players and brass are enjoying just their third break in the season schedule since opening night, but a few have packed their personal schedules with some unusual events, kind of taking the "rest" out of a rest day on Tuesday.

• Kris Bryant hit baseballs into the Chicago River from the grassy plaza at River Point during a Red Bull pop-up batting practice. Kayakers from Urban Kayakers scooped up the balls after they hit the drink.

• Kyle Schwarber posed as a mannequin in a Cubs-themed Macy's window facing State Street just before 1 p.m. After the window's curtains opened, Schwarber held the pose for a few seconds. The gaggle of media and cameras certainly affected the surprise. After the stunt, Schwarber went inside the story and took questions from fans. One little girl asked him which is the hardest team to beat. "Cute question," Schwarber said, taking his time to answer. After the pause, he responded: "Ourselves." The fans cheered.

• Javier Baez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a morning ceremony honoring Baez with a street sign in Humboldt Park. A stretch of Luis Munoz Marin Drive will bear signs for "Javier 'Javy' Baez Way."

• Anthony Rizzo greeted passengers at O'Hare in the morning.

• Joe Maddon is set to toast his cover of Michigan Avenue magazine with a swank reception at Ocean Cut restaurant in the evening.

• Theo Epstein will join Tom Verducci, author of "The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse" at the Standard Club, 320 South Plymouth Court, at 5 p.m.

Cubs players and staff members attend a variety of off-day events around Chicago on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.


Introducing the Cubs Villainy Meter

Even if fans of every team didn’t necessarily love the Cubs and cheer along with them, they could certainly empathize with the organization’s situation. From 1908 until 2016, the Cubs failed to win a World Series, and didn’t even have the chance to try from 1945 onward. That made them underdogs, which in turn made them lovable, even as their collection of young talent and superior everything stomped on the neck of the rest of Major League Baseball last summer.

That’s all over now. Well, the part where the Cubs are lovable underdogs, anyway: Their feet are still firmly planted on the rest of the league’s faces. If anything, they’re just going to become more villainous with time: We saw it happen to the Red Sox, we saw it happen to the Giants, the Royals gave a sped-up version of this a shot after winning in 2015, and now, we’re going to see it happen to the Cubs.

In fact, it’s already happening. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo showed up at spring training and immediately explained why the Cubs will never be hated by sports fans. Dude, you were drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, at the time they were going for their second World Series in four years, and were already hated after being the sympathetic underdog for the better part of a century ... and in part because their fans couldn’t conceive of anyone disliking them.

They’re going to hate you, Anthony. And saying they won’t is one way to make it happen.

That’s just one thing, though. The thing the Cubs are doing that is going to make everyone hate them is their catchphrase. Introduced for 2017, when the Cubs do something good, or someone on the Cubs has a highlight or moment of smart baseball or whatever, the thing to now say is, “That’s Cub.” It was infuriating when it began, but now Chicago has trademarked the phrase — it’s not going anywhere except for on all kinds of apparel, and if it doesn’t bother you yet, it will.

This requires a little explanation. The Padres are the least-villainous team in MLB mostly because a majority of fans don’t even know that they exist. Sure, A.J. Preller cheated his way to trades of major prospects by avoiding divulging information about player medicals, but that’s only true if you believe the Padres are real.

The Pirates and Brewers are basically endpoints for most of the rest of the league: The Pirates haven’t won in forever and have likable players like Andrew McCutchen, and the Brewers haven’t won in ages, either, but they have Ryan Braun, and there are plenty of fans out there who object to the known PED user. It’s a little thing, but it’s what has them where they are on the scale.

All in all, though, those 23 teams are harmless. And the Cubs used to be with them, if not where the Padres sit. Now, though, after winning, after Rizzo denying anyone could hate the Cubs, after the introduction of “That’s Cub,” the Cubs are, well, they aren’t villainous, but they no longer have a free pass. They’re a step below the Mets, who have foisted Tim Tebow and the Wilpons upon us, but any further steps towards villainy will vault them ahead of New York’s other team.

The other five teams ahead of the Cubs are the Dodgers, who spend more than anyone and win the NL West constantly, but haven’t even been to the World Series since 1988. The Giants have won three World Series this decade and aren’t going anywhere, and are villains even if the even-year magic is gone. The Red Sox and Cardinals are basically tied for the next spot, but since Cubs fans have a more personal rivalry with St. Louis, the Cards get the nod as more villainous.

And, obviously, the Yankees and their fans are the most villainous.

Just picture everyone in that image wearing “That’s Cub” logos instead of pinstripes, celebrating Kris Bryant’s game-winning homer in the Cubs’ fourth World Series in a row, and you see the dark future that lies ahead for the North Side.

We’ll keep the villainy meter updated throughout this season and beyond if necessary, in order to see if the Cubs are just going to be run-of-the-mill disliked, or if they’ve got that extra gear in them to truly be reviled.

I believe in you, Cubs.


Cubs championship ring bearers find loyalty runs both ways at Wrigley Field

For 108 long years, through billy goats, black cats and broken hearts, Chicago Cubs fans remained steadfast in their faith in next year.

Even a long-awaited World Series title isn’t quite enough to reward that kind of loyalty.

When the Cubs receive their championship rings Wednesday night, it will be with the help of 20 of their most ardent fans. Ranging from 13 to 90, hailing from the city of Chicago to the middle of St. Louis Cardinals country, they are a cross-section of the fans who make the Cubs, well, the Cubs.

A father whose kids all have Cubs-themed names. A cancer survivor. A season-ticket holder who saved the paper after Ernie Banks’ debut and later got him to sign it.

“I thought it was, even if I didn’t win, a really cool experience to incorporate a team that has a following,” said Michael Folsom, one of the 20. “There’s so much loyalty that goes into being a Cubs fan. It’s a nice token of the organization to present the rings in this way.”

Or, as fellow ring bearer Joanne Harrer put it, “They have the best fans. Cubs fans are the best fans in the world.”

The Cubs are well aware their fans are unique – think folks in Los Angeles or Atlanta would have adored a 99-loss team?  -- and the Ricketts family has gone out of its way to acknowledge that since buying the team in 2009.

How many owners hang out in the bleachers, as chairman Tom Ricketts has been known to do on occasion? The ring bearers are an extension of that.

Calling it “the memory of a lifetime,” president of business operations Crane Kenney said involving the fans in the ceremony was the team’s way of saying thank you for never giving up, despite the Cubs giving them ample opportunity to do so.

The 20 were chosen through videos that illustrated their loyalty and dedication. The one submitted by Harrer’s granddaughter described their yearly road trips to see the Cubs – Milwaukee, Arizona and Washington, to name a few.

Erv Schreiber’s grandson included scenes of the 86-year-old celebrating the Game 7 victory by breaking out a bottle of champagne he’d been saving since 1984. The champagne had lost its fizz, Schreiber said, and tasted like vinegar. But it was still the sweetest drink he’s ever had.

“I just kept saying, `I saw them win it. Yes! Yes! Yes. I saw them win it!’” said Schreiber, who now lives in Indianapolis but traces his Cubs roots to his childhood in Chicago, when he would keep score on a homemade scorecard as he listened to games on the radio in his living room.

“That’s all I ever hoped for, that I’d be around to see them win it.”

When the video was posted on Facebook, Schreiber was overwhelmed by the response. Many of the comments were from people who said his joy gave them an idea of how their parents or grandparents would have reacted, if only they’d been alive to see it.

“To have comments like that made – my joy was being shared with hundreds and hundreds of others,” Schreiber said. “That was humbling. That was humbling.”

So, too, the knowledge that others went out of their way just to make the video.

Folsom is a multi-needs, special-education teacher at Downers Grove South High School in suburban Chicago, and his classroom is decked out in Cubs paraphernalia. He wasn’t able to go to any of the World Series games – “I’m a teacher’’ – and couldn’t take off work to go to the parade.

So a co-worker and his students conspired to nominate him as a ring bearer.

“Other people thinking of me … it’s just been all one special experience,” Folsom said.

And there’s still one more.

Those chosen got two tickets to Wednesday’s game, commemorative jerseys and accommodations for the night. They’ll get a sneak peek at the World Series rings, made by Jostens, before giving them to the players.

The ring bearers won’t know who they’re presenting to until Wednesday, not that it really matters. As they’ve proven time and again for 100-plus years, a Cubs’ fan’s love knows no bounds.

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