The ‘honor’ Trumps politics in scheduling Cubs’ White House visit

SHARE The ‘honor’ Trumps politics in scheduling Cubs’ White House visit

One-time White Sox lefty Barack Obama hosts the crosstown Cubs Monday at the White House during his final week as president.

Whatever internal discussions the top officials in the Cubs’ organization might have had regarding Trump vs. Obama, the team’s White House visit Monday is being embraced by all, chairman Tom Ricketts said Wednesday during manager Joe Maddon’s “Thanksmas” charity dinner event in Chicago.

“Once you get invited, you go. There’s really no other way around it,” said Ricketts, whose family went from Donald Trump opponent and Twitter target a year ago to financial backer of the president-elect’s campaign by year’s end.

“I don’t care where you live or who you vote for or whatever. It’s an honor to just be involved,” Ricketts said. “Who knows what’ll happen in the future. But we’re excited.”

President Obama, a White Sox fan, extended invitations to his other hometown baseball team via Twitter and a phone call to Maddon to visit the White House to celebrate their first championship in 108 years before the president leaves office.

Already gathered in town this weekend for Cubs Convention, the Cubs plan to fly to Washington for the visit Monday, just a few days before Trump’s inauguration.

Given the Rickettses’ ties to Trump, there was some initial doubt whether the Cubs would make the trip before the administration change. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts has been selected by Trump to be his deputy commerce secretary.

“Once we actually got invited, it was a scheduling thing for a while, so that kind of left it a little up in the air for a few weeks,” said Ricketts, who added he expects all but a few players with prior commitments to make the trip.

“It’s really just about, `Hey, when you get invited to go to the White House, you just say yes.’ We’re excited about it,” Ricketts added. “Certainly it’s a plus that President Obama is a Chicagoan – although I hear he’s a Sox fan. Other than, I think it’s perfect. We’re excited.”

Asked whether the family has any second thoughts about backing Trump in the face of recent news reports that have escalated scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest and alleged ties to Russian leaders, Ricketts quickly turned the subject back to the team and its trip.

“No,” he said. “Look, we’re excited to go on Monday. The whole team’s going to be there. It’s going to be a great day for all the players, for all the coaches, for everyone that can make it. It’s a real honor.

“Hopefully, it’s an annual thing for us, this White House visit, but we’re really going to enjoy this one.”

It’s the third trip for Maddon who went as part of the Angels’ coaching staff after their 2002 championship and again as an invited guest of then-President Bush just before he finished a second term eight years ago.

“This is very fortunate, my third trip,” he said, “but to get there with President Obama, after the conversation we had from Air Force One after the World Series, and how exited he is – and he’s got a bunch of staffers from out here, too. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Maddon happy to help Clemson try not to suck

Despite the connection with Maddon and his “embrace the target” mantra that football coach Dabo Swinney revealed before this week’s title game, Maddon doesn’t claim credit for Clemson’s comeback title-game victory over Alabama.

But the manager, who was unable to meet with Swinney’s team before the game, did make a 3 1/2-minute video at Swinney’s request to show his team before the game.

“Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the fact that they would even consider utilizing some of our thoughts is very flattering,” Maddon said. “I don’t know Alabama; I don’t know coach [Nick] Saban at all. So at the end of the day I was able to some way, somehow, spur Clemson on. … I was very happy for [Swinney].”

Schwarber answer to leading question?

Maddon unveiled the top of what he called his “faux lineup, January 11 [vs. a right-hander],” and Kyle Schwarber was in the leadoff spot, as departed free agent Dexter Fowler’s replacement.

Following the lefty slugger: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist.

In that scenario, Maddon said he would consider going back to using his pitcher in the No. 8 spot, to “feed Schwarber.”

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