As eager as the Cubs are to see their World Series championship rings on Wednesday, they first will raise the banners on Monday night at the home opener. It's a coronation more than a century in the making.
"I love banner raising," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Rings are wonderful, but I love banner raising. That's symbolically there all the time. Every time a kid shows up at the ballpark, he'll see that banner. Hopefully, we'll be able to hang more."
The banner-raising ceremony can be seen live on MLB.com and cubs.com at 6:20 p.m. CT/7:20 ET. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 CT/8:05 ET. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN.
The next two games against the Dodgers will be the last official celebrations of the 2016 season, when the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908 in an exciting seven-game series against the Indians. You'll know these two games are unprecedented: The Cubs will be wearing gold-lettered uniforms Monday and Wednesday.
"It's really a special time," said Maddon, whose Cubs enter on a two-game winning streak after Sunday's 7-4 victory in Milwaukee. "Like anything else, I'd encourage my guys to slow it down, take those mental snapshots, enjoy it, don't let it happen too quickly. This is good, you celebrate achievement. For all those different reasons, I am looking forward to it and will tell myself to enjoy it."
Jon Lester, who started Game 1 of the National League Division Series, the NL Championship Series vs. the Dodgers and the World Series, will begin the homestand as Cubs fans have their first chance to salute the defending champs since the parade last November in downtown Chicago. The lefty was touched by some of the stories he heard of Cubs fans, including one about a man who sat at his father's grave during a World Series game to listen to it on the radio.
"That resonated pretty hard for me," Lester said. "That was a pretty cool moment that these fans shared with their family members, that they've had so many years of heartache, and we were able to give them the championship that this city deserves."
Ben Zobrist's wife, Julianna, will sing "God Bless America," the Cubs' owners, the Ricketts family, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams will lead the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch.
Besides the bunting on the upper deck and some new photos in the home clubhouse, the Cubs will also get their first look at some of the changes done at Wrigley Field during the renovation. The bullpens are now located under the bleachers, not along the foul lines. That will be a dramatic change for long-time fans, such as "Front Row Phil" and the lady who brings Cheez-It crackers to bullpen catcher Chad Noble.
"You have regulars there who feel they were a part of the team," bullpen coach Lester Strode said.
Having the bullpen tucked away may help, Lester said. He won't be on the field for the festivities, but in a neutral setting.
"That's the downside to it -- you feel you're in the game, in the action [sitting outside]," reliever Justin Grimm said. "The positives, we'll stay warmer when it's cold and cooler when it's hot. We won't have to run in and out of the clubhouse [to go to the bathroom]. For me, all I really care about is the mound good and warming up and getting it going."
Maddon has invited Don Zimmer's widow, Soot, to Opening Night. Zimmer was the Cubs' manager from 1988-91, and a consultant with the Rays when Maddon was in Tampa Bay from 2006-14. He passed away in June '14 at the age of 83.
"I don't think 'Soot' has missed an Opening Day, and I did not want it to happen this year," Maddon said.
The evening will no doubt be a slightly different setting from 1909, when the Cubs celebrated their World Series triumph over the Detroit Tigers from the previous fall. In that followup season, the Cubs finished second out of eight NL teams with a record of 104-49.
Much like the 2017 Cubs, the 1909 team retrurned the core of its championship squad, minus veteran catcher Johnny Kling, who led the North Siders to three straight pennants from 1906-08. In an odd twist, Kling had been crowned world pocket billiards champion in 1908, requested a leave of absence from the club, opened a pool hall in Kansas City and sat out the title-defense campaign.
After Monday's festivities, the Cubs have an off-day Tuesday to get settled, then one more party as they receive their World Series rings on Wednesday.
"It's going to be fun," Kris Bryant said. "It'll be fun Wednesday to get that out of the way and turn the page on last season. I'm so excited to get my ring and show it off. I can't wait."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com 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.