For the second straight year, Carlos Zambrano's "Big Z Foundation" will have a booth at the convention, which will be held at the Hilton Chicago Jan. 14-16. Anyone making a donation will receive a T-shirt. Fans also will be able to enter a raffle for souvenirs, according to Frank Alvarez, the foundation's administrative director.
Zambrano has a personal motive for his involvement. The father of three girls, the Cubs pitcher is in the process of adopting a boy from Guatemala.
"During the season, I focus on baseball," Zambrano said last March. "In the offseason, I focus on what matters in my life.
"When I was there [in Guatemala], I thanked God for my kids and the people around me, my nephews and cousins," he said. "I thanked God because [my family] has a better life. God blessed us, and I pray to God to bless the children."
Zambrano kicked off his foundation at the 2010 convention with a dinner at Fogo de Chao in Chicago. The goal is to help underprivileged children and families, which brings us back to Guatemala. Zambrano has visited there each of the past two offseasons to work with a group called Hope of Life, or Esperanza de Vida, which is devoted to promoting educational, medical and spiritual development.
In Guatemala, the group sponsors the Paradise Children's Home, which cares for children who are abandoned by their parents, and provides food, clothing, medical attention, and an education.
During his visit in October, Zambrano not only toured a new hospital that's part of Hope of Life's efforts, but he also helped distribute rice, soup and bread to more than 300 people.
During Spring Training, Alvarez said the Big Z Foundation will host a charity softball home run derby in Gilbert, Ariz. No word on whether Zambrano will take a few swings. Check bigzfoundation.com for more information.
Interested in going to the Cubs Convention? There are still rooms available at the Hilton Chicago. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate, and fans with room reservations can purchase weekend passes for $20 each (limit four per room). In addition, the Cubs are offering a special autographed item to everyone who books a room under the Cubs Convention rate. There will be one item per room while supplies last. Hotel reservations can be made by calling the Hilton Chicago at 312-922-4400.
Besides Zambrano, new first baseman Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Marmol, Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro are among the players scheduled to attend the convention.
Cubs manager Mike Quade will answer fans' questions, and attendees will get to meet prospects Chris Archer, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter and DJ LeMahieu.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.