Cubs visit with Donald Trump at White House: ‘This is a great team’

Just more than five months after a robust East Room celebration with President Barack Obama, several Cubs players, coaches and executives held a more modest celebration in the West Wing with President Donald Trump Wednesday.

“This is a great team,” Trump told reporters of the 2016 World Series champions as he chatted with the champs in the Roosevelt Room along with the trophy. “They were actually here, but they wanted to be here with Trump.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge the Cubs were struggling to repeat last year’s historic performance.

“Your team’s doing OK,” he said with a hedge in his voice. “But you’re going to do great starting now, right?”

Typically, World Series winners schedule a visit to the White House for a formal celebration during the following season, usually when they are playing either the Washington Nationals or nearby Baltimore Orioles.

But Obama, whose political career began on the South Side of Chicago and whose wife grew up a fan of the North Siders, was eager to bring the team in early, and many of his Chicago-native staff were keen to make it happen. They came just days before Obama left office, with team president Theo Epstein offering the White Sox fan a “midnight pardon” among other memorabilia.

The Cubs have done a second round of celebrating while in the nation’s capital for a four-game series with the Nationals. The championship trophy was hosted at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, and team Chairman Tom Ricketts brought his squad to the White House Wednesday.

Trump noted that he had tried to bring Ricketts into his administration as deputy Commerce Secretary.

“But after about 9,000 pages of filings he said, nah I don’t want to be,” he said.

Trump also singled out Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, calling him a “great governor.”

The entire Cubs roster did not attend. Manager Joe Maddon, star sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and pitchers John Lackey and Jon Lester were among those present. There was nervous laughter in the room when Trump asked who was the best hitter on the team. “I think you have a lot of them,” the president offered.

Trump later invited players into the Oval Office, where the team presented him a team jersey bearing his name and the number 45, as well as a “45” scoreboard placard.

During the Roosevelt Room gathering, Trump made an odd request: asking to bring in the owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, to pose with the group. Not only did the Cubs defeat the Cleveland Indians to win the 2016 World Series, but Gilbert’s Cavs just lost the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors.

As Gilbert reluctantly joined the group Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, pointed out it was tough local politics to do so. “I’m trying to protect him,” Cohn told the president.

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