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Forget baseball; Cubs’ home opener figures to be a lovefest

The city has agreed to widen the sidewalks along Addison Street outside Wrigley Field as part of a plan to enhance ballpark security. | AP file photo

The Cubs Convention, the organized event in which fans slather unconditional love on players, management, broadcasters and pretty much anyone with a suggestion of blue in his or her wardrobe, moves outside Monday.

Oh, it’s the team’s home opener, all right, but it will feel more like the pep rally that takes place inside a Chicago hotel every winter than a baseball game.

There will be cheers for the team that made it to the National League Championship Series last season. Reigning N.L. Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and N.L. Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant will get heroes’ welcomes as they’re introduced to the Wrigley Field crowd along with teammates. So will 2015 N.L. Manager of the Year Joe Maddon. Newcomers Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey will walk away with the distinct impression that they can walk on water. If a communal faith-healing ceremony breaks out for Kyle Schwarber’s injured left knee, no one should be surprised. No, a Greek priest won’t be involved.

But the roars, although sincere, actually will be for what’s ahead for the Cubs because, if I have this right, this is the year.

There will be so much hope in the air and the applause will be so loud that the team’s president of business operations, “Construction Crane’’ Kenney, had better have everything bolted down at still-being-renovated Wrigley.

The core of this team – Bryant, Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler – seems immune to pressure. It truly has been all fun and games for them since the beginning of last season. But we don’t know how the new guys will respond. The home opener, against the Reds, will be a good first test for them. The only thing fans are expecting this year is everything.

If the Cubs win Monday, it will back up what everyone seems to think anyway, that the team is on a steady march to its first World Series title since 1908. If they don’t win Monday, there’s always next … game.