CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon and a dozen players kicked off the winter caravan Wednesday night with a stop at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, doing baseball drills and sharing pizza with some of the patients.
One of the boys, Ethan, took a few swings off a batting tee with Mike Olt and Albert Almora watching and may have given the Cubs players an idea. Ethan said he was a better singer than a ballplayer, so he sang the national anthem as he took his swings. He didn't do too badly.
"I may have to try that," Olt said.
Laura Ricketts, chairman of the board for Cubs Charities, addressed the group, noting that the Cubs have had a long partnership with the RIC, which includes sponsoring some of their competitive sports teams.
The caravan is the first phase of the Cubs Convention festivities, and this will be Maddon's first exposure to the sold-out fan fest. Opening ceremonies are Friday at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers.
"I'm looking forward to it," Maddon said. "I've heard you've got to experience it. I guess it's something you can't prepare for. My perception is, I've been through a World Series, an All-Star Game, and a lot of different moments, and from what I'm hearing, this ranks up there with those events."
Besides Olt and Almora, other players to take part in the visit to the RIC included Jason Motte, Jake Arrieta, C.J. Edwards, Brian Schlitter, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Zac Rosscup, and Eric Jokisch.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.