The first thing Theo Epstein did when he hit the Cubs dugout Thursday was shed his topcoat.
“Don’t need this,” the new Cubs president said.
He was right. Although the game-time temperature for Opening Day was a brisk 41 degrees with winds out of the northeast, the sun was shining brightly at Wrigley Field.
Epstein, no doubt, got credit for that from many Cubs fans eager for regime change. Maybe he even got credit for the ivy on the outfield walls beginning to turn green again.
“I was impressed,” Epstein said. “I was telling someone last night I hope that’s a good omen. A lot of people who have been here a long time say they’ve never seen that before. We’ll take it as a sign of good things to come.”
But seriously, Epstein hopes the focus will soon shift from him to the players. Even so, it was difficult for him to walk from the Cubs’ new offices up the street and into the ballpark without being noticed.
“That’s nice; it’s a compliment,” he said. “I’m realistic enough to know that that’s the case just because I’m a symbol ... They look at me maybe symbolically. It’s not me. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of people, the players first and foremost, working extremely hard to try to put this organization forward. It starts with Tom and the whole Ricketts family, a very hardworking front office, a new manager and major-league coaching staff. All of our players got their work in and had a great spring training.
“I’m one small person in a very big machine who’s hopefully going to get this right over time. Not only have I not done anything here yet, I’m also just a small part of it.”
Even team chairman Ricketts got into the fun of Theo-mania.
“There was a photo of him walking on water this morning,” Ricketts said. “You call that pressure. You call that expectations. I think he’s up for it. I think he understands what Cubs fans are expecting out of him. We’re going to work hard and support him.”
Epstein won two World Series titles in Boston as general manager before coming to the Cubs. Through it all, he says Opening Day remains special, even if he is looking forward to things quieting down a bit Saturday, when the Cubs resume their series against Washington.
“I love Opening Day. I think all of us, all you guys who love baseball, it’s a special day, one of the best days of the year,” he said. “That feeling of renewal is amplified every time you’re with a new team. I think back to my first Opening Day with the Red Sox. That was really special. This is real special as well.
“Opening Day is the one day of the year that doesn’t feel like any other day. As much as I like Opening Day, I really cherish the second day of the year because that’s when the baseball rhythms kick in.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.