Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, pitcher Matt Garza and Cubs owners Tom and Laura Ricketts pushed a button to turn on the white lights on the 30-foot Michigan fir, decorated with blue batting helmets, red bows and ornaments made by children at a neighborhood school.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn gave the Ricketts an endorsement of sorts of their plans to renovate Wrigley Field. Last year, the Cubs asked the state of Illinois for $200 million in public financing to help build a better Wrigley. The team has not gotten any help so far, but on Saturday, Quinn said he "wants Wrigley Field to be here for the next century and beyond."
That would be a nice present for Cubs fans. So would keeping Garza in a Cubs uniform, since the team is rather short on starting pitchers. The right-hander's name has been linked in trade rumors, but he's not paying attention. Garza, who lives in the Chicago area in the offseason, said he stays in contact with his agent.
"[My agent] said, 'It'll be an active Winter Meetings, so watch TV,'" Garza said. "I said, I'll be in Italy."
He's headed to Europe for a vacation next week -- possibly at just the right time. He's also used to trade rumors.
"I've gone through it for the last six years of my career," he said.
Garza said he briefly met Theo Epstein, the new Cubs president of baseball operations. He's also heard good things about new Cubs manager Dale Sveum from some of the Brewers players.
Epstein was able to put together two World Series championship teams in Boston. Does Garza see the new Cubs boss doing the same in Chicago?
"All I know how to do is I know how to beat [the Red Sox]," Garza said. "That's all I did. I know how to beat them. I liked the teams I faced there."
Garza did face the Red Sox a lot while pitching for the Rays and has a career 7-4 record and 3.83 ERA against them in the regular season, and posted two wins over them in the 2008 American League Championship Series.
The right-hander is arbitration eligible, coming off a season in which he was paid $5.95 million. A contract extension would be a nice gift.
"I'm open to whatever," Garza said. "I just like playing the game. My family lives here, if that's any indication. I just want to play the game. I do love Chicago."
Besides Quinn, Garza and the Ricketts, Illinois Senate president John Cullerton, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, 12th District State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, 10th District Cook County commissioner Bridget Gainer, and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney attended the tree-lighting ceremony. The Cubs, making sure they cater to all fans, also have a large menorah next to the tree.
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.Less