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Cubs Convention covers all of the bases

Cubs Convention covers all of the bases

Cubs Convention covers all of the bases
CHICAGO -- The 26th Cubs Convention covered everything from celebrating the late Ron Santo to manager Mike Quade's preference for mass transit. Here's a roundup from the weekend winter fan fest:

• New Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena won people over with his charm. Toward the end of a session discussing life in the Dominican Republic, a fan told Pena he was originally upset about the signing because the first baseman hit .196 last year. But the fan said Pena won him over with his positive attitude and personality. Pena told about how his family had good jobs in the Dominican Republic but moved to Massachusetts because they wanted to do what's best for their children. They lived together in a cramped attic with no heat. "Today, I don't even know how to say thanks," Pena said of his parents' sacrifice. "Today, I'm living a dream, playing for the Chicago Cubs." Pena and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo begin a week of work together in Dallas Monday.

• Cubs owners Tom, Pete and Todd Ricketts will head to the Dominican on Monday with player development director Oneri Fleita to finalize details for a new academy in Boca Chica. The Cubs are hoping to complete the facility by 2013. Also, the new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., most likely will not be ready for Cactus League play until 2014.

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• According to surveys, 60 percent of the fans polled want a video scoreboard at Wrigley Field. However, they want it somehow located outside of the ballpark, like on top of one of the rooftops.

• Aramis Ramirez's father did not want his son to play baseball but wanted him to be a doctor. Ramirez signed with the Pirates after one tryout in the Dominican Republic but his father made him finish high school before he could start playing pro ball. Starlin Castro, on the other hand, went through 10 tryouts in the Dominican over three months before signing with the Cubs for $50,000. Why did Castro pick the Cubs? "Because I liked the team," he said. Ramirez, who is in the last year of his contract, was making his first Cubs Convention appearance. "I'm a free agent after this year so if this is my last year here, I just want to say thanks for everything," Ramirez said.

• Quade said he still plans on taking a bus or train around Chicago than a taxi. "I'd rather pay two bucks than 20 bucks," Quade said.

• Blake DeWitt will have a different look at the plate. The second baseman has gotten rid of the tap mechanism he was using -- he actually started at the end of last season -- and spent a week this winter with Jaramillo in Arizona fine-tuning his swing.

• Tyler Colvin is healthy and fully recovered from the bat incident last September. There are nearly 40 players taking part in "Camp Colvin" in Mesa, Ariz., with strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. For example, prospect DJ LeMahieu is there and has gained 20 pounds. Colvin also admitted on Sunday that he wrote a paper in high school about how he wanted to be a big leaguer but the teacher gave him a B-minus. "She said she gave me a low grade because it wasn't likely to happen," Colvin said.

• Pitcher Hayden Simpson, the Cubs' 2010 No. 1 Draft pick, was to join the workouts in Mesa, Ariz. He lost 30 pounds after being sidelined with mononucleosis shortly after the June Draft, which did not allow him to play at all last season.

• There were a lot of Chicago Bears fans at the Hilton Chicago.

• The Cubs are still in the early stages of finding a musician or band to perform at Wrigley Field in 2011.

• The Cubs should know by mid February whether fifth-round pick Matt Szczur will choose baseball or football. Szczur, who starred at Villanova, will take part in some NFL combines and play in the Senior Bowl. Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Szczur could be a front line center fielder.

• Carlos Zambrano was asked by a fan as to whether he'll open a rehab center for Gatorade coolers. Big Z has had his encounters with them in the dugout. Zambrano did not get riled. "I know sometimes I do things I shouldn't do," he said. "I don't want to hurt anybody." Zambrano told fans he called Derrek Lee after the dugout tantrum last June to apologize.

• The Cubs may go with a leadoff by committee with Quade rotating players in the No. 1 spot in the lineup depending on matchups. Among the candidates are Jeff Baker, DeWitt and Kosuke Fukudome.

• Ron Santo is definitely missed. The two seminars on Santo -- one with past and present WGN Radio co-workers and another with his teammates -- were the most popular sessions at the Convention. The Cubs are putting together a video of the sessions, which will be posted on Cubs.com. WGN Radio officials did conduct some interviews during the weekend.

• Kerry Wood does not have an oral agreement with the Ricketts family to move into the broadcast booth after the pitcher's playing days are over. "I don't think there will ever be an interest in me broadcasting anything, much less baseball," Wood said.

• New Cubs pitcher Matt Garza does not speak Spanish.

• Quade is staying positive. He grew up in Chicago and he knows all about the Cubs' lack of a World Series championship since 1908 and dismisses such talk. "I'm aware of everything -- I can count to 102," he said.

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.

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