By Chris Emma

By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Gathered together for the first time since the aftermath of the World Series, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Cubs teammates reflected.

They looked back upon the improbable Game 7, they played the “What if?” game like so many fans and they set their sights on doing it again in 2017. Then, they looked well beyond, to their futures as local legends. Bryant hadn’t even considered it.

Heroes of their city, these men will forever be rock stars in Chicago. Finally, the Cubs have a World Series champion. This charismatic group was great enough to do what so many before them couldn’t.

A smile came upon Bryant’s face as he processed this once again, this time at the Cubs Convention on Friday at the Sheraton.

“This team that won the World Series is forever going to be attached to this city,” Bryant said. “Just thinking about that, it gives me chills.”

Bryant soon after emerged on a catwalk surrounded by thousands of fans. They exploded with excitement just to get a blurry photo of the MVP. It was like a Beatle had walked into the room.

Inside the Sheraton ballroom on Friday evening, pure jubilation reigned supreme. From chairman Tom Ricketts simply stating that his Cubs won the World Series to David Ross later hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, this opening night of the annual convention was like no other.

For these young Cubs, it was part of their new lives as local legends. Wherever they go in Chicago, well beyond their playing days, they will be greeted as a champion — one of the Cubs who finally brought the city a World Series victory.

Kyle Hendricks arrived at O’Hare Airport on Friday to a mob scene of fans. He signed every autograph and smile for each photo. There will be many more in his lifetime.

“This is going to be a team that people are going to talk about forever — that broke the curse,” Hendricks said. “I think it’s awesome.”

Just ask any ’85 Bear how winning Super Bowl XX in dominating fashion has impacted his life. More than three decades later, each player is still given a hero’s welcome. These Cubs are in store for the same treatment, if not even greater.

The old saying suggested that the Cubs who finally won it all would never have to pay for a dinner in Chicago. It’s proved to be true for Hendricks, whose postseason heroics will be talked about forever. He’s still adjusting to not picking up the tab.

Theo Epstein has experienced this before, having brought his home city of Boston its first championship in 86 years back in 2004. He built the Red Sox a World Series winner and then found his life would never be the same. Epstein arrived in Chicago back in autumn of 2011 with the hopes he could do it for the Cubs.

More than two months removed from the championship, the architect of the team marvels at his receptions since that night in early November.

“Every time a fan comes up to you and shares how meaningful it was for him and her, every time you drive by the marquee and see ‘World Champions,’ it hits you in a really good spot,” Epstein said.

“They come up and instantly start talking about the World Series, how much it meant to them, what it meant to their family, how connected they all were watching it. I’ll never take that for granted.”

Ultimately, these Cubs have their sights set on winning it again and again. Ricketts reminded the fans Friday that the his team went back-to-back in its last championship. That was 108 seasons ago.

Chicago will cherish each championship, but nothing can quite compare to the Cubs’ first in more than a century. Nobody can take that away from them. This city certainly won’t ever forget them.

Bryant got the chills just thinking about it.

“To be a part of the group that did that,” he said, “it means a lot to me, just knowing we’ll forever have an impact on this city and we gave something to the fans that they deserved.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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