Marlon Byrd strolled into Mesa last week with a confident gait, broad shoulders and a bronze medal in the 2011 Mr. Universe body building competition. Byrd’s medal was just one more piece of hardware that has eluded the Cubs for far too many years.

“Even the most casual of baseball fans know about the Cubs’ World Series drought and the curse of the Billy Goat,” baseball historian Michael Arnold said. “But slightly lesser-known is the fact that the Cubs haven’t had a player place enter the Mr. Universe pageant since Hack Wilson took second place in 1931.”

But it turns out the big story wasn’t Byrd’s new hardware, but a training partner with a familiar name. Byrd admitted that he still works with convicted steroid dealer Victor Conte.

“Victor helps me train in the off-season, nothing more, nothing less,” Byrd said while winking profusely. “That miraculous jump in power and batting average a few years back comes from hard work and the genius of Rudy Jaramillo.”

Byrd’s revelation also caused enough of an uproar that he was forced to answer questions about the reports in Mesa while bending iron bars with his bare hands.

“Frankly I’m a little upset that you guys don’t think I’m smart enough to stay away from PEDs with all the testing MLB does nowadays,” said Byrd. “I would never accept supplements or vitamins from Victor in a million years. Rather, everything I got came from Victor’s secretary.”

Byrd then cut the interview short saying he needed to “oil up” for batting practice and try to convince the Cubs to design an alternative uniform based on form-fitting spandex apparel of Mr. Universe participants.

“It’s a great idea. You can really relax when you can breathe,” Byrd added. “We just wouldn’t want to wear them on days when Silva is pitching.”

Giles Tellum