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Pokemon craze hits Cubs' clubhouse -- sort of

David Ross and John Lackey have managed to ignore the Pokemon Go craze. "I don't know what you're talking about," Lackey said when asked about it. Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

CHICAGO -- Has the Pokemon Go craze found its way into the Chicago Cubs clubhouse? That was the question put to players this week, as their ability to travel the country and catch Pokemon make them prime candidates for the addicting and popular game.

“I’ve caught two so far,” pitcher Jason Hammel said. “The first one might be a gimme so they can hook you. I’m going to show it to my son, and he will love that.”

Hammel said his younger brother was “obsessed” with Pokemon, so he was more than familiar with it before the app came out.

“He worshipped Pokemon for the better part of five or six years,” Hammel said. “I played with him. I loved drawing. If baseball didn’t work out, I was going into graphic design. I thought the imagery and the art of it was pretty cool, so that made me OK with playing, even though it was for kids 10 years younger than me.”

Hammel isn’t the only Cub who has played Pokemon, though others have varying degrees of interest.

“I did download the Pokemon thing when I was home for the All-Star break,” Tommy La Stella said. “Tried it a couple times, couldn’t figure it out, deleted it. My sister plays it. I did attempt it.”

Some have heard of the game, but haven’t attempted it yet. Others want to stay away from it.

“Oh my god, yes,” Albert Almora said. “I’ve seen people walking the street going nuts with it. I’m like, ‘What is that?’

“My buddies from back home were like, ‘You would find, like, the coolest ones because you travel.’ Maybe I’ll catch a Pokemon in center field.”

Hammel said he heard that there have been Pokemon “caught” at Wrigley Field, but he isn't sure if that was in the stands or on the field; he hasn’t “taken my phone out there with me.”

Seemingly, everyone has heard of the phenomenon except for one player. And that comes as no surprise.

“Huh?” John Lackey asked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Informed that Pokemon Go is a game that Hammel (who lockers next to him) plays, Lackey responded with a laugh:

“Hammel and I are totally different people. I don’t have any games on my phone," he said. "Oh, wait. I do have Madden on my phone. My son put that on. Shuts him up sometimes at a restaurant.”

If there’s anyone on top of what the kids are playing these days, it’s 22-year-old shortstop Addison Russell.

“I wasn’t much of a Pokemon player, but hearing what everyone has to say, I might have to hop on and catch some Pokemon downtown,” Russell said with a laugh. “That’s where the world is headed to, so may as well just go with it.”

Like Lackey, 39-year-old catcher David Ross isn't sure what the craze is all about. He’s still trying to master much simpler games.

“The kids got me into Angry Birds,” Ross said. “I have the Crazy Taxi. I got hooked on this Crossy Road thing. This duck thing. Drives me crazy. I don’t know why I play it, and I don’t know anything about Pokemon.”

What does a former Ivy Leaguer think of all this? Dartmouth guy Kyle Hendricks is following with a close eye, but not participating.

“I’ve seen all the stuff that’s been happening,” Hendricks said. “People walking off the cliff or into the middle of traffic. People are crazy about this. One of my friends downloaded it, and I was looking at it, and I wasn’t hooked on it right away. It’s not on my phone, but I’m keeping up on the hype.”

If not Pokemon, most Cubs have other games on their phones. There’s plenty of downtime, especially on the road, so killing a half hour on the couch in the clubhouse with an iPhone has replaced crossword puzzles.

“It’s called Flow,” Almora said. “That’s the one I like. I like Call of Duty and stuff like that too.”

“Some card games, maybe a little Subway Surfer," Russell said.

“I just got one like a week ago," Travis Wood said. "I don’t normally play games. I think it’s called Word Brain. Maybe because everyone else was playing it I wanted to see what it was. I’m not a big gamer.”

Hammel is also a “Word Brain guy,” while Hendricks plays Clash of Clans.

We’ll give Carl Edwards Jr. the final word on Pokemon. He is willing to engage fans online through Xbox games, but wants nothing to do with Pokemon.

“That’s crazy,” Edwards said. “That’s ridiculous. I’ve been watching the news. I see people being sent across town to a bad neighborhood, but he’s just looking at his phone. Then he gets robbed or something. I’m staying away.”