Fast forward several years to when the Cubs are supposed to be a mega-team stacked with homegrown stars and select big-name free agents.

The herd of national writers and newspaper columnists that once abandoned the Cubs beat has returned to Arizona, trying to find their way around the new complex on the Mesa/Scottsdale border.

Albert Almora and Jorge Soler – who spent the winter working out together in Miami – have lockers next to each other in one corner of the room. Javier Baez smiles and points to the Major League Baseball tattoo on the back of his neck, telling Starlin Castro he could have been a better shortstop.

Jeff Samardzija is wearing his powder blue “(Bleep) the Goat” T-shirt, one of the few still remaining in circulation. He jokes about how creepy his moustache looks on the new Michigan Avenue billboard. (He had found out about the ad campaign the morning it was unveiled, when someone from the marketing department sent him a text message.)

The ESPN and MLB Network satellite trucks have taken over one corner of the parking lot for the news conference to introduce Player X, the $200 million finishing piece that Theo Epstein signed at the winter meetings.

But right now Fitch Park is The Land of Opportunity.

Veterans signed here for their platform years, to show they’re recovering from Tommy John surgery (Scott Baker) or ready to be big-league starters (Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman) and everyday players (Nate Schierholtz, Ian Stewart).

Growing up in Naperville, Scott Hairston had never worn a Cubs hat before Wednesday, because his father Jerry Sr. played for the White Sox. His brother Jerry Jr. – who once played for the Cubs – told him he’s going to love it here.

Hairston found out he’ll be wearing No. 21 – Sammy Sosa’s old number – when his wife saw it on Twitter.