Excitement growing among Cubs fans

Excitement growing among Cubs fans

CHICAGO -- Joe Maddon bought his first tuxedo during Monday's off-day, but the salesman was not going to be rooting for the Cubs during their Interleague series against the Tigers.

"At Bloomingdales, the kid who sold me the tux, great kid," Maddon said. "He's a Tigers fan actually. It's OK."

The salesman is one of a few who haven't gotten excited about the Cubs, who are hoping to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2008. General manager Jed Hoyer said he's gotten far more ticket requests this year than in the last four.

"People talk about it being a year early," Hoyer said. "I think if we had expected all these young players to come in and contribute, it would've been unfair. At this point, we expect these guys to go out and perform. Right now, our focus is on 2015. We're in an exciting position that Joe and the coaches and the players have put us in."

The Cubs are in the final week of a stretch in which they will play 17 games in Chicago, including three on the South Side against the White Sox. Hoyer has noticed a different vibe at Wrigley Field.

"We had so many fans who stuck with this team for five years when we were struggling," Hoyer said. "It's hard to have a buzz in the ballpark when you're 20 games under in August. Now that we're in a pennant race, the atmosphere here has been amazing."

Maddon has noticed it as well. Fans shout encouragement when they see the manager in downtown Chicago or ask him to pose for photos when he's getting his morning coffee. He's hoping the players keep blinders on and don't pay attention to outside distractions.

"I'm really a big believer in not over thinking anything," Maddon said. "The less they think about it, the more they just go play. I much prefer that they be unconsciously competent -- that's the zone. You're unconsciously competent. If we could get more guys in that moment, they're going to perform at their highest level."

He doesn't want players to amp up their pregame work, just do the same thing.

"What we've been doing up to this point plays the rest of this month and all September and in October," Maddon said. "I prefer not changing anything. I don't want them to work harder, study more, look at more video. I want them to actually do less. I want them with a free mind. If your mind is free and clear, your energy will be there."

He does have one request for fans, though.

"Could we inform the public that the manager is not the coach," Maddon said. "Call me Joe or Skip, Skipper. Joe is fine. Coach is primarily for other sports, unless you are actually a coach here, which I'm not."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.