CHICAGO – (Wire Service Report by The Sports Xchange) – There were several anxious moments as Kyle Schwarber jumped off a 3-foot dais to greet a young fan at a downtown hotel on Saturday. The Chicago Cubs catcher/outfielder, who missed nearly the entire 2016 season with a knee injury yet returned for the World Series, executed a perfect landing on his surgically repaired leg and gave a 4-year-old fan a high five.
Schwarber then prudently walked back upstairs to his seat during a kids press conference with teammates Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. at the offseason Cubs Convention that drew several thousand fans to a soldout event.
The yearly gathering had extra meaning for both the team and fans in the wake of a 2016 World Series championship — the club’s first in 108 years.
Schwarber, who hit .412 (7-for-17) in five World Series games, exhibited a comedian’s timing, stealing the show at what is usually an entertaining event featuring unfiltered questions from children.
He was asked if he planned to play during the 2017 season or wait until the World Series, revealed his favorite superhero (Superman), his favorite video game growing up and the ice cream he likes most.
And when a question was directed to third baseman Kris Bryant — who was not part of the press conference — Schwarber promptly dialed up the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player and put him on speaker phone to reply.
On a serious note, Schwarber said that while he enjoyed the rewards and recognition from a World Series win, there was still serious work ahead as the 2017 season looms.
“I’m still trying to rehab and just try to separate where it’s personal time and business time,” he said.
The convention typically generates little news, but this year was an exception.
The Cubs announced Friday they avoided arbitration with right-hander Jake Arrieta, signing him to a one-year deal worth $15.6 million.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish the last two years is remarkable,” said Arrieta, who went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and a no-hitter in 2016. “Everyone knows how difficult it is to repeat with the shortened offseason, everything going on that comes along with a championship, everybody’s getting pulled in all these different directions. (But) for me it makes me a little hungrier to do it again.”
The convention was scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, followed by a Cubs road trip to Washington and a Monday White House welcome from President Barack Obama.
Obama told Cubs manager Joe Maddon that he hoped the Cubs could come before he second term ends next Friday.
“I just found out about it couple of days ago that they were actually going to do it,” Maddon said Saturday. “It’s quite an honor.”