Cubs ring in the home season with banner Wrigley opener Monday

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MILWAUKEE – A minute or two into a conversation between Cubs president Theo Epstein and reporters on the field before the Cubs’ season opener last weekend fans pressed up against the railing at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and began chanting:

“Thank You, The-O! Thank You, The-O!”

That was more than a week before the Cubs’ first game at Wrigley Field since their historic championship last fall – and only the most recent version of that sentiment from fans in the five months since then.

“I mean, every place you go more than anything you hear, `Thank you,’ “ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, his voice lowering. “And you feel like, `Come on.’

“I have not been around long enough to know exactly the depth of it,” he said. “But I’m learning.”

Class opens again for Maddon on Monday when fans pour into the streets and the new plaza outside Wrigley Field and then pack the ballpark for the banner-raising ceremony the National League’s oldest ballpark has never had reason to stage.

Where will they raise such a championship banner?

“I have no idea,” Maddon said.

Exactly.

“It’ll probably be like a playoff game at Wrigley, a World Series game,” said Jake Arrieta (2-0), who struck out 10 in seven innings Sunday to beat the Brewers 7-4 and send the Cubs home with a two-game win streak and back-to-back series wins to open the season.

“I expect Waveland, Addison, Sheffield and Clark to be packed,” Arrieta said. “It’s going to be a blast.”

The Cubs unveil gold-trimmed hats and gold-lettered jerseys for the first two home games Monday and Wednesday, when two pregame ceremonies previously unheard of at that location promise to bring the decibel level to late-October, late-inning levels.

“It’ll be exciting. It’ll be energetic,” Rizzo said of the scene he expects Monday. “The reaction we got after winning it all last year, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see that again in any sport. Images I’ll never forget. Memories I’ll never forget. [Monday] will be no different.”

The ring ceremony Wednesday could be even more intense.

“A lot of tears,” reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said of his expectations.

Tears for him?

“No,” he said. “Chicago.”

Edwards, who pitched another scoreless inning Sunday, said he was asked by a friend last summer what he would do if he and the Cubs won the World Series.

“Crazy. And then we won it,” he said. “I was like, `I don’t know what I’ll do.’ And I still don’t know what I’m doing.”

Even veteran Ben Zobrist can’t be sure what the next two game days will hold emotionally. It might be especially meaningful for him since he became a free agent after winning the World Series with the Kansas City Royals in 2015 and didn’t experience their banner raising or ring ceremony.

“It does add something to it, and I’ll be privileged to be a part of it,” said Zobrist, whose wife, Julianna, is scheduled to sing God Bless America before Monday’s game.

“To get a chance to wear that jersey in a game, the gold jersey – not a lot of players get a chance to do it,” said Zobrist, whose seventh-inning homer Sunday was his second of the Brewers series. “No one in Chicago yet for the Chicago Cubs.”

Players have seen mockups and pictures of the rings but been sworn to secrecy about details. Many were asked for input on the design.

Rumor is the ring features 108 diamonds for the record number of years between championships – the last one so long ago that championship rings were not yet a thing – and the World Series trophy did not exist in anything close to its current form.

“You know it’s going to be a big ring if they can fit that many stones on there,” Arrieta said. “It’s going to be cool to put it on for the first time.”

“I don’t know how much I’ll wear it,” said right fielder Jason Heyward. “I’ll cherish it. I’ll probably look at it a lot.”

“I’ll wear it every day,” catcher Miguel Montero said.

And if it’s a 108-diamond behemoth dwarfing any finger or thumb?

“Doesn’t matter,” Montero said. “I’ll put it on my wrist.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

 

 

 


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