Surprising appearance by first lady highlights visit for Cubs

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Former first lady Michelle Obama | File photo

WASHINGTON – A day the Cubs expected to be about meeting the president and enjoying a victory lap at the White House unexpectedly became as much about their connection to first lady Michelle Obama’s family in Chicago.

“Michelle showing up was pretty cool as well,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the first lady met with the team in her only appearance among dozens of championship-team visits during her husband’s eight years in office. “Her never coming to any of these. Amazing.”

President Obama’s allegiance to the White Sox is well known, but his wife’s bond with the Cubs might be more personal.

In a private reception with the team before the public ceremony, Chicago native Michelle Obama met the players and told them about spending time after school with her father watching Cubs games on WGN and becoming a South Side Cubs fan.

“She came and shook hands and met every one of these members of the Cubs organization and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win,” President Obama said, of the “bond and the family – the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much to her.

“I almost choked up listening to it,” he said. “And it spoke to I think how people feel about this organization and that it’s been passed on generation after generation, and it’s more than just sports.”

Michelle Obama, who did not attend the public ceremony, was enough of a Cub fan that the president said she made sure here favorite player from those days, Jose Cardenal, would be on the trip.

“Back then he had a big Afro, and she was describing how she would try to wear her had over her Afro the same way Jose did,” the president said.

Naturally, “Jose Cardenal, who got the longest hug from the first lady we’ve ever seen – her favorite player of all time – you’re the MVP today.”

‘Uncomfortable’ subject

Call the T-shirt printer. Joe Maddon might have his new theme for the 2017 repeat effort.

“I’m really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable,” the manager said when asked Monday for his outlook on the upcoming season. “I think the moment you get into a comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you’re going to stop growing and not want to grow.

“So I really want us to be uncomfortable and continue on the pattern of growth.”

Peace and pasta?

Maddon reunited with Chapman for the first time Monday since Chapman’s critical public remarks of the way he was used out of the bullpen during the World Series.

Maddon’s retort?

“I invited Aroldis out. Now that he’s a Yankee, he’s going to be in Tampa [for spring training],” said Maddon, who keeps a home and has an Italian restaurant there. “So he gets to come to Ava, our restaurant down in Tampa.”

Notes: Among the attendees were three Cubs Hall of Famers: Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg and Fergie Jenkins – who yelled from the crowd to persuade the president to actually wear the No. 44 jersey Rizzo and Epstein presented him. … Four current players who were on the World Series roster did not make the trip: Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Hector Rondon. … Three ex-players who were on the roster attended: David Ross, Chapman and Dexter Fowler. Two missed the trip: Jorge Soler and Travis Wood.


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