WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Chicago Cubs will make their second visit in six months to the White House Wednesday for a meeting with President Donald Trump.
Trump has close ties with the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs franchise and have long been top Republican donors. Joe Ricketts, whose son Tom is the Cubs chairman, donated close to $15 million to Republican causes during the 2016 campaign.
The Cubs, who beat the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series, visited the White House for their ceremonial presidential visit earlier this year under President Barack Obama, who honored the team as the pride of the city despite being a loyal Chicago White Sox fan.
But Wednesday’s visit has raised questions about openness in the Trump White House. Sports teams who visit the White House are usually honored with public ceremonies and a speech by the president. But because Obama already feted the Cubs, the White House decided to keep Wednesday’s visit a low-key affair.
In part because the visit is being billed as unofficial, several players have opted not to attend. The team is also slated to play another game against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday evening.
A survey of players by the Chicago Sun-Times found 10 players were declining to visit the White House.
“Whatever Mr. Ricketts would like me to do, I’m going to do,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters about the White House visit. “Mr. Ricketts and the Ricketts family have been good to us. So part of that is that. The other part is whenever you have a chance to go to the White House, I think it’s easy to say ‘yes’ out of respect to the office and the building itself.”
Presidents usually welcome the visits, which serve as a respite from the day-to-day fighting in Washington and offer the commander-in-chief a chance to show a personal side.
“I will say to the Cubs, it took you long enough. I’ve only got four days left. You’re just making it under the line,” Obama joked during the January ceremony, making light of the Cubs 108 season drought between World Series wins. “Even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years, we would see the Cubs win the World Series. But I did say that there has never been anything false about hope”
The Cubs are in Washington for a four-game series with the Nationals and visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Todd Ricketts, a member of the Cubs board, and Tom Ricketts, the team’s chairman, presented Illinois’ two Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, with customized jerseys and posed for pictures with the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Long before golf became the sport most identified with the President, baseball was Trump’s sport of choice early in the his life. Trump, according to a number of accounts of his childhood and time at the New York Military Academy, was a standout baseball player whose solid arm, power at the plate and long frame made him a model first basemen. His coach even told Rolling Stone that a young Trump was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies.
And during interviews for a biography, Trump bragged about his baseball prowess to author Michael D’Antonio.
“I was always the best athlete. … But I also knew that it was very limited, because in those days you couldn’t even make a lot of money playing baseball,” Trump said during interviews for the book. “Everybody wanted me to be a baseball player. But I was good in other sports too. I was good in wresting, I was very good at football. I was always the best at sports.”