CHICAGO -- Some of the Cubs' top prospects visited children at a local hospital on Monday night to play games, do a few exercises, and even be interviewed. But the star of the show was Clark, the Cubs' new mascot, who made his debut.
The goal of Monday's appearance at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center's pediatric developmental center was for the players and Clark to help reinforce positive activities being taught to children with autism and other developmental challenges. From the looks of things, everyone had a good time.
Players did jumping jacks and stretches with the children, answered questions about their favorite ice cream flavor and colors, and competed in friendly games of "Connect 4." Kris Bryant, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick, revealed he would have been a dentist if he wasn't a ballplayer. A boy named Declan wanted to know Bryant's favorite movie, but the third baseman couldn't pick one, so he asked the youngster for his pick. Not only did Declan declare one of the Batman movies as No. 1 but invited Bryant to his house so they could watch it together.
In another room, prospects Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Mike Olt and Eric Jokisch were with some children plus Clark, tossing balls, playing with a train set, and taking turns on a plastic slide.
The hospital visit was the type of event the Cubs have planned for the new mascot, which was created as a response to survey feedback and fan interviews. According to the team, people wanted more Cubs-related family-friendly entertainment at Wrigley Field, and Clark will interact in the community, engage with young fans, and be respectful of the game.
The Cubs say Clark will be a champion for Cubs Charities' mission of targeting improvements in health and wellness, fitness and education for children, and families at risk. Young fans will see the mascot at schools during Cubs Caravan or "Cubs on the Move" fitness program visits; hospital appearances; and other family-focused events, such as the upcoming Cubs Convention.
Fans won't see the mascot on top of the dugout between innings, or tossing T-shirts or hot dogs into the stands, and it won't disrupt the game. Instead, Clark will greet fans as they enter Wrigley Field, and also stop by the ballpark's "First Timers Booth" to welcome new guests. On family Sundays, the mascot will help kids run the bases after the game.
Most of the time, Clark will welcome fans to his own clubhouse at Wrigley Field, where families can visit. Fans also will be able to interact with Clark on Twitter and Facebook.
During the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, which begins Friday, Clark will be at a temporary Clubhouse and available to meet young fans and host kids-related activities. But fans won't see the new mascot riding an ATV around the warning track or interfering with their views of the field during the game, the team says.
With the arrival of Clark, there are now three Major League teams that do not have a mascot -- the Angels, Dodgers, and Yankees. The Angels do have the Rally Monkey.
The Cubs' will introduce Clark on Thursday during a winter caravan stop.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.