Former Cubs delight in White House festivities

Fowler, Chapman among 2016 team representatives to visit President Obama

Former Cubs delight in White House festivities

WASHINGTON -- Dexter Fowler, Aroldis Chapman, Chris Coghlan and Trevor Cahill are no longer on the Cubs' roster, but they contributed to the team's successful 2016 season and World Series championship, and they attended Monday's ceremony at the White House with President Barack Obama.

Fowler, who signed a five-year contract with St. Louis, posted on Twitter: "What an honor to be at the White House with my Cubs family. Can't wait to go back next year with my @Cardinals!"

The Cubs weren't quite in agreement.

"I told Dexter the next time he comes here, it's not as a celebrant of the St. Louis Cardinals," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Cubs introduced at White House

Maddon did congratulate Fowler on his new contract. The Cubs made Fowler a qualifying offer after the 2015 season and again after '16, but he rejected it both times. Fowler returned in late February last year, and he was a key reason the Cubs won the World Series.

Chapman signed a five-year contract in December with the Yankees, and because he'll be spending Spring Training in Tampa, Fla., Maddon invited the closer to his restaurant, Ava. Chapman also posted on Twitter: "Great time at the @WhiteHouse w/my @Cubs ex-teammates and @POTUS #Privileged #FlyTheW / increible experiencia! Gracias #Chicago"

Among the players who did not attend Monday's ceremony were Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Hector Rondon. Lester posted on Twitter that he had to attend a funeral. Arrieta said during the Cubs Convention that he had family matters to deal with.

Other notes

• President Obama made fun of his own party during the ceremony in the East Room, which included a significant Illinois delegation in the audience. Obama said that, considering Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein's success ending championship droughts with Boston and now Chicago, he's a perfect candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Epstein declined.

"Good thing I signed a contract with [Cubs chairman] Tom Ricketts, who was kicking me, saying I can't leave," Epstein said. "It was a kind offer, though."

Would Epstein consider a career in politics?

"There are a lot of ways we can all impact our communities without running for office," Epstein said.

Epstein complimented Obama, who is in his final days in office.

"I think everyone, no matter where you fall politically, can appreciate the dignity with which he served the country," Epstein said. "He did an unbelievable job raising his family while here. Across the board, folks would agree he's very dignified and brought a lot of integrity to the office. It was our pleasure to thank him for that today."

MLB Tonight: White House Visit

• Obama's comments about how sports can bring people together resonated with the Cubs.

"It's absolutely true about the unifying power of sports," Maddon said. "Whether it's a city, state, fan base, or a nation -- look at the Olympics as a perfect example of a nation rallying around sports. I'm totally in agreement with that, and obviously, we brought a high level of satisfaction to the city of Chicago and all the Cubs fans throughout the world, and we're very proud of that."

Obama may not be a Cubs fan, but several members of his staff are, including speechwriter Cody Keenan, who sat in the front row at the East Room wearing a Cubs jersey.

Monday also commemorated the Martin Luther King holiday, and Obama noted that in his remarks.

"It was pretty magnificent, and to do it on Martin Luther King Day also, to be brought here is pretty special," Maddon said. "I've always been a big Jackie Robinson fan and have had a picture of him in my office where I worked. All those things combined, to be here today, is very special to all of us."

As for converting Obama from a White Sox fan to a Cubs fan, Maddon laughed.

"That's our attempt on a daily basis -- that's our daily goal," Maddon said.

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• Someone asked Maddon abut his outlook for the 2017 season.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said. "That's the whole thing -- a mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form. When you get in this moment, right here, you want to do it again, of course, and then the question is, 'How do you do that?'

"I'm leaning on the phrase or thought of being uncomfortable," Maddon said. "I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is you're going to stop growing or not want to grow. I really want us to be uncomfortable and continue along the pattern of growth and try to get it done very quickly again."

The emphasis again, Maddon said, will be on pitching and defense. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. 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.