Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses Jake Arrieta’s outing and the team’s performance in the 7-4 win over the Brewers on Sunday, April 9, 2017, and previews Monday’s home opener at Wrigley Field. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)
Monday night’s pregame festivities will cause the Cubs’ players to move up their pregame schedules well in advance of the 7:08 p.m. first pitch.
But manager Joe Maddon believes he’s put his players in a position to clear their minds and concentrate solely on baseball even after they witness the raising of the World Series banner.
“We really try to avoid laying anything else out there,” said Maddon, mentioning that he conducted a preseason meeting well before the first game on April 2 at St. Louis.
“I take care of our stuff in advance and try to normalize things. When the guys come in, everything appears like it could be the middle of May, the middle of June, whatever. Outside of getting on the lines and being out there a little earlier, I want to believe we’ll react to it OK.
“I might be underestimating how guys will feel. But I have a lot of faith the way we do things. I want to believe they’ll get into the spirit of it and channel it properly.”
Opening night starter Jon Lester is happy the bullpen was moved to under the left field bleachers to allow him to concentrate on his start and not get wrapped up in the pregame hoopla. And now he appreciates that the Cubs will hold their ring ceremony on Wednesday night, when John Lackey takes the mound.
“I was a little confused why we were doing two different days in Chicago for the celebration,” said Lester, referring to the raising of the World Series banner on Monday night and the ring ceremony on Wednesday night. “And now I’m happy we’re doing two days because now I’ll be able to see (the ring ceremony) on Wednesday.
“That will be the surreal moment. I saw the stuff this offseason – TV programs, TV things about the journey and fans and how much it meant to those people.”
Maddon did acknowledge the atmosphere will be sort of “playoff-esque,” although Jason Heyward said the season opener at St. Louis and the first game at Milwaukee presented a similar setting.