WASHINGTON -- Although they made their official White House visit for winning the World Series back in January, the Chicago Cubs will make another informal trip Wednesday because team ownership has ties with the current administration.
Manager Joe Maddon tried to steer clear of any controversy regarding the trip, as he’ll accompany about two dozen people in the Cubs' traveling party, including some of his players. Albert Almora Jr., Anthony Rizzo, and, reportedly, John Lackey are expected to attend.
"It’s not as ceremonial as the last one was, going there as World Series champions," Maddon said Tuesday afternoon. "It’s more based on the Ricketts family relationship.
"Whatever Mr. Ricketts would like me to do, I’m going to do. Part of it is that, and part of it is whenever you have a chance to get to the White House, I think it’s easy to say yes, out of respect to the office and the building itself."
Maddon was asked if going is a tacit affirmation of President Donald Trump's administration in the way that not going would be a statement in the opposite direction.
"To go tomorrow is out of respect to the Ricketts family and the office," Maddon said. "I like the United States a lot. I like living here a lot. When you get a chance, as a citizen, to get to go to the White House, you go. I think you go. Whether you like the person that’s running the country or not, out of respect to the office itself, you go.
"I don’t agree with all the other banter that’s going on right now. I have a different perspective. I like living here a lot. I like this country a lot. I much prefer living here as opposed to the other places that adopt different methods of government, so I think sometimes that’s confused by people who want to take a stand and not really realizing what we have here, which is a lot better than most every place else."
Maddon stressed that the trip isn't mandatory for his players, and he has no problem if some don’t want to go because of politics.
"I just want you to run hard to first base," Maddon quipped. "As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House. As long as my pitchers work on defense, they can do whatever they want tomorrow."
The Ricketts family supported Trump in the open election, though they weren’t above a Twitter attack by the president early in the campaign.
I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
Meanwhile, Laura Ricketts, the sister of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts who is on the Cubs' board of directors, was an open supporter of Hillary Clinton. But their brother Todd Ricketts, also a board member, was Trump's pick for Commerce Secretary before Todd Ricketts withdrew his name because of difficulties untangling his financial holdings to satisfy ethics rules, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Maddon isn’t sure if the visitors will meet Trump after having a formal ceremony at the White House in the final week of President Obama’s administration.
"I think it’s possible, but we haven’t been assured of that yet," Maddon said.
But the president's schedule, released Tuesday evening, showed he would meet with the Cubs in the Roosevelt Room at 2 p.m. ET.
Maddon famously dressed down for the January visit and, considering the already stated informal nature of this one, he’ll do the same Wednesday.
"We got word on this late, so I’m going to have my best pair of jeans on tomorrow," Maddon said with a smile. "It’s not nearly as formal as the last one was."