Cubs set 2012 ticket prices at Wrigley Field

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Cubs set 2012 ticket prices at Wrigley Field

The Cubs are already looking forward to the buzz Theo Epstein will bring to their franchise and what that could mean at the box office.

The timing happened to work out perfectly. Renewal forms were already scheduled to be sent out to season-ticket holders on Friday, just as team executives were finalizing the details that will bring Epstein to the North Side.

The Cubs announced Friday that prices for season tickets will be essentially flat or reduced when compared to 2011. Season-ticket holders will also get a break, paying on average 1-to-2 less than what it costs for individual-game tickets in the same location.

The Cubs are now requiring a 10 percent deposit on season tickets in November, with the remaining balance due in January. In exchange, fans will be able to visit Wrigley Field and personally pick out a new location if theyre looking to change seats.

Perhaps sensing how it looks on television, management has responded to the empty seats seen across the bleachers last season.

The Cubs say that season tickets in the bleachers are decreasing on average by 14.3 percent per ticket. Prices for individual games will drop 10.3 percent on average next season. But it will be more expensive than last year to sit there for the 13 marquee games.

The Cubs did not add another pricing tier for 2012. Marquee remains the most expensive designation, which is reserved for: Opening Day; weekend series with the White Sox, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals; and high-traffic Saturdays in the summer against the Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs say season tickets within the seating bowl will remain flat compared to last year.

Individual tickets depend on the game category, and its a wide range. When the 12 percent amusement tax is factored in, it will cost around 128 for an infield club box seat on a marquee day. Its only about 9 to get an upper deck reserved outfield seat for a bronze game.

The general manager definitely cant take credit for this streak, but the Red Sox counted their 700th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park last month, a reflection of the winning teams assembled by Epstein.

In the months ahead, well find out what a new direction means at Wrigley Field.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."