MESA, Ariz. -- During the Cubs' visit to the White House in January, Anthony Rizzo spotted a small sign on former President Barack Obama's desk in the Oval Office that said, "Hard things are hard." The message resonated with Rizzo, and is something the Cubs need to remember as they begin defense of their World Series championship.
"There's no shortcuts," Rizzo said on Thursday. "That [message] really stuck with me. I just did a workout with [strength coach Tim Buss] and he kicked our [butts]. It's not fun, but it's necessary. We have to have fun and push ourselves to the limits.
"[Manager Joe Maddon's] message since Day 1 when he got here was, 'Push yourself to the limit you don't think you can get to, and you'll see in a few years, we'll be way past that,'" Rizzo said. "That's what we plan on doing."
The Cubs ended the longest championship drought in professional sports by winning the World Series in 2016, the franchise's first since 1908. Rizzo and Co. certainly enjoyed all the perks, such as the parade in downtown Chicago, appearing on "Saturday Night Live," and most recently, going to the Grammy Awards.
Despite the fanfare, Rizzo said this spring has the same feeling as every year.
"The focus in spring is get your work in, and when the season starts, the biggest thing is get off to a good start," Rizzo said. "I'm sure we'll hear Joe talk about that throughout spring, and especially later on when [the regular season] is two weeks out."
The Cubs still have this lovable image, though. Rizzo said a diehard Red Sox and Patriots fan came up to him at his gym this offseason.
"He said, 'Yeah, congrats. You guys won one, but you haven't done anything until the whole country hates you,'" Rizzo said. "In a way, it's true."
That arrogance will take time to develop.
"I think this team has a lot of good personalities where it's going to be tough [to dislike them], but that's the way it goes," Rizzo said. "If we just respect the game, it'll make it hard for people to not like us."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.