Before I begin, I want to let BCB in on a personal note of mine that I just calculated. This calculation is an educated approximation of how many miles "less" I would have on my car's odometer if I hadn't driven to any Cubs games starting with the first Cubs game I ever drove up to on March 31, 2008... Opening Day 2008. This calculation is for all those people who have told me I shouldn't have driven to all those Cubs games the past three seasons. Why? I just want to prove that my car would still have a high mileage reading if I hadn't driven 18,864 combined miles to and from Wrigley Field, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, and the trips to Bourbonais, IL for lodging before I turned 21 (June 26, 2010... Bourbonais lodging accepts 18 or older, anyplace closer to Wrigley you have to be at least 21 to stay). Without all those trips my odometer is approximately 184,751, is that still high? I think yes.
46 trips in my car, 60 Cubs games resulting from the "trips in my car". The other 26 Cubs games since Opening Day 2008 are from bus trips and riding up with friends and family in other vehicle's. Doing this marathon has provided me some of the most exciting moments I will ever live through and recently, one of the toughest journey's I've had to take to get where I was going.
I'll never forget my first lone drive to Wrigley on Opening Day 2008. My first Opening Day, my first bleacher game. It was raining all morning on the drive to Chicago but that didn't stop me. That didn't wipe the smile off Ernie Banks face that morning from making a zealous speech next to his new statued landmark. Mother Nature couldn't stop the game itself from getting in after two rain delays. I'm still amazed how this game got played. There was quite a buzz in the air. There was the whole Centennial anniversary with the Cubs and then there was the Japanese import.
The buzz couldn't have been any higher when someone by the name of Fukudome stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 9th as the potential tying run. The entire freaking ballpark was chanting Fuk-O-Dome-A, the moment itself was driven by pure anticipation. Every ball in the at-bat caused the cheer to grow even louder than the last. Then, strike one, a collective deflation in the stands. Everybody wanted it... but for it to really happen? No, that stuff only happens in dreams. Kosuke delivered. Could it be? That ball is still carrying! A paid audience of 41, 089 people including myself just witnessed a miracle, a miracle that sends a special kind of vibe though you, a vibe so strong, that only 41, 089 people can make. It's an emotional vibe that you can feel the person next to you feel, a vibe that sends shivers down your spine, makes your knees weak, takes away your ability to speak clearly. Emotion so excitingly high that your body is completely controlled by it. At that moment, 41, 089 people were so caught up in this emotional vibe, we were lost in time, or at least I felt like I was. I just remember after Wrigley Field came back down to earth I was verbally saying to myself out loud in a hoarse voice: "I cannot believe that just happened!!!" And I couldn't, I don't think anyone else could believe it either. However, the Cubs lost that game, but that moment in itself is something that you run out of superlatives describing. It's one of those "Where were you when..." moments. I feel so greatful I got to attend that game and experience that moment, win or lose in the box score, it was a winning moment by far.
I never thought I would experience the feeling of a miracle at a Cubs game, let alone be fortunate enough to get struck twice by this bolt of miraculous. But I did. Only this time, there was no anticipation, it just came out of nowhere. I was with a bus group at this game. Our tour guide guy from the bus had been sitting next to me during the game. He asked me early on if I get really excited when the Cubs give me something to cheer about and I told him: "I think you'll find out soon enough." Jim Edmonds hits a home run and he tells me after: "that's enough excitement from you for today." I kind of chuckled.
Later, the Cubs are down 2-6 going into the bottom of the 9th and this guy asks me: "so what's your prediction?" I say very confidently: "all we need is a grand slam!" Then he gives me a look on his face that says, that would take a miracle. Little did he know (about miracles), little did I know (what was going to transpire a few moments later). Cubs get the first two batters out, Aramis Ramirez hacks one that looks like the left fielder is going to catch but a lazy effort allows the ball to get through to the ivy and Ramirez is standing on second. Ramirez scores on an Edmonds single, Edmonds moves to third on a bloop by DeRosa. It all developed so quickly, almost within consecutive pitches on consecutive at-bats. Then Geo Soto steps up, swings, makes contact and the sound his bat made on contact triggered a past memory I had when I was younger.
This memory is one I dreamt up years ago. One of those day-dreams that you fantasize as a kid of sitting at the ballgame and watching your favorite team hit the big home-run. You imagine where you're sitting, what your vantage point is, what the day looks like, what the ballpark looks like, what the breeze feels like, what the players look like. You imagine what the sound would sound like, everything you would think it would be and you ponder, someday whether it's here on earth or in my afterlife, I will get to see that fantasy come to life. The sound of the bat triggered this repressed dream, exactly how I had pictured it in my childhood. I looked at the left fielder, I think he's standing there camped under it to catch it. I look even closer, and he's looking at the ground! I realized it was a no-doubt-about-it shot and it was Opening Day Fukudome deja-vu all over again! It was almost like the Cubs did exactly what the crowd wanted to see happen little by little, batter after batter until the game was at least tied.
Within the exitement my ballcap slipped out of my hand and flew about ten rows ahead of me, and I think I elbowed the tour guide guy next to me in the process. I turned to him worried I hit him but when I saw him he was just standing there with his hands in his pockets looking in all directions with a big smile on his face thinking: "Oh my gosh, this is too unreal!". Even Pat Hughes called it "A Miracle" on the broadcast while Soto was rounding the bases. After the crowd calmed down... after I calmed down, I turned to the tour guide guy next to me and asked him with the biggest smile on my face: "Was that enough excitement out of me for you to handle for one day?" He just shook his head, put his face into his hand, and then scratched back and forth through his hair trying to piece together what just happened.
To make that moment even more bittersweet, there was a pack of mid-20 year old Brewer fans a few rows behind us that just kept taunting us the whole game like it was their house. They thought they were just going to waltz in our beautiful Wrigley Field and harass the faithful and get away with it. They were one out away. To see the look on their faces when the Cubs came back to tie and then win looked so familiar to what we look like too many times in the past... and it felt good, just for one day we got to stick it to them and pull the rug out from under right at the last second and crush their hopes, those guys deserved it, they were mean. Go Figure, Opening Day 2008 vs Brewers, miracle home run and a loss. Then the Brewers face the Cubs one last time at Wrigley in 2008, miracle home run and a win!
Sometimes things are just meant to be. For my case, I still to this day can't believe it happened but it did. In 2008, I was attending the finale of the Cubs regular season home slate and I had a left field bleacher seat. The Cubs were taking batting practice and Sean Marshall was playing catch and happened to get an extra ball. He decided to pick someone within my direction and lobbed it towards me. I put my glove up and caught it and I was pretty enthoused. Soon after the people around me was trying to get my attention. I looked up and they were pointing at Sean Marshall. Sean was trying to get my attention because he intended to get the ball to a kid a few rows up from me. I agreed to help him out so I found the kid and tossed him the ball. The whole crowd applauded my generosity and Sean applauded me as well. That was a such a great feeling. I unselfishly gave the ball to a kid!
Later I learned that Cubs TV color analyst Bob Brenly has some rules of thumb. One rule is: "Yes honey, you were right, I'm sorry." And the other rule is: "Give it to a Kid!" I figured, why not make a sign that says: "Give it to a Kid, and Go Cubs." In 2009 I got a dugout box seat which is a prime spot to get on TV. I got the sign ready, the camera got me, and a friend of mine called me to say I got on and Bob liked it. So that was cool. But it doesn't stop there. In July of 09, I was standing near the Ernie Banks statue after Soriano hit the walk-off grand slam calling my friends because I just happened to get on TV again with my W flag. While I'm there, Bob Brenly walks out of the office doors behind the bench and I couldn't help myself I said: "Give it to a Kid!" Bob turned around real quick mid-stride and smiled. So that was cool too. But it still doesn't stop there.
On 09-09-09 the Cubs finished a sweep of the Pirates in Pittsburgh in a game that ended mid-afternoon. Later that night, about 9pm, I was working as a manager of a fast food restaurant. It was pretty slow at that time of night. Some guy and his wife comes through the drive-thru and gets to the window to get the food. I give the bag to my window person, I look up at the window, I see a man taking the bag that has the resemblence of Bob Brenly. I stand with my jaws dropped. I think, that couldn't be him, Pittsburgh to Chicago? And we're in Davenport, Iowa? He would have to back-track. But, if it is him, he would have Illinois license plates. He drives away, I look at the plate and it was Illinois. I think, okay that could have been him but I'll never know. I walk to the lobby and the car stops in the lot. I'm thinking, I can't live with myself if I don't go out there and at least ask the man if it is him. I go out, I approach the driver door and he has the window rolled down. I walk up and ask: "Excuse me sir, but is your name..." I look at his shirt and it says Comcast SportsNet but I go on and finish my question that I know the answer to: "Bob Brenly." Bob lit up, put his hand out the window, and said: "yes I am!" I shook his hand and I had the biggest school girl smile I ever had on my face. Bob and I chit-chat briefly and Bob was really a gentleman. I found out he was driving to Cedar Rapids to see his son with the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League Playoffs on the Cubs off-day. I had to mention the "Give it to a Kid" jingle to him. I told him about the two occasions and he remembered. His wife asked me if I was the guy in the LF bleachers that had the "I was once a kid and I never got a ball." sign. I said I remember that sign but it wasn't me. Bob frantically searched for a pen and paper to write down my name and what city he was in so he could mention my name on the air when the Cubs faced the Reds at Wrigley that Friday.
So Friday's game came and it was the bottom of the 5th when Len and Bob were talking about the game Bob's son played in the night before in Cedar Rapids. Bob decided to tie that story in with his encounter with me the night before. The moral of his story on the air was the "Give it to a Kid" sign I bring to help influence the adults to give baseballs to the youngsters as much as possible because kids only get to be kids once. It really meant a lot to me that Bob was kind enough to mention my name on the air and give me some big ups on my effort to "Give it to a Kid."
Then sometimes, an unfortunate situation has its "blessings in disguise." There was nothing more evident for me on Friday July 23, 2010. I got off work at midnight. I was going to drive up to the game that night and then sleep a little in my car before the 1:20 game against the Cards. I'd rather drive up in light traffic while I'm still wound up and sleep than get little sleep, drive up in heavy traffic tired and run the chance I oversleep for the game. So I stop in Bolingbrook at the I-55 truckstop to get gas at 5am. I start up my car, and it won't start. I call a tow truck, get it towed to firestone for service. From 5am to 8am, I am having trouble trying not to panic. I calm myself down, take it step-by-step, I ask around to see how I can get to the game.
I realize the timing and the location of this situation is a blessing in disguise. I was lucky enough to have my car break down at a gas station instead of on the freeway. I was lucky enough to heve it break down so early in the morning that I still had time to find transportation. I was lucky enough to have my car break down within the Metra rail transport circle. I caught a flat-rate taxi to the Lisle Metra platform with is one station away from the end of the Metra line in Aurora. If my car had broken down before I got to Aurora, I probably wouldn't have had any transportation to the game. I took the Metra, got on the Red Line to Addison and got to Wrigley right at 11am to get in line for the bleachers! The only down side of all this was I didn't get any sleep and I would have to be up for over 24 hours before I got my car back that night.
I had never been so relieved to sit on the bleacher bench and relax because I had such a long morning and my journey was only half-way over. After the Cubs took a 5 nothing lead late, some Cardinal fans started to leave which gave me some room to lean back to the bench behind me, throw my arms up, stretch my legs and soak up the sun. Isn't this game great! I am so glad I got to attend a Cubs win that day agianst the Cardinals after everything I had to go through to get to the game. The beauty part was my car got fixed at Firestone while I was at the game. So when I got back at 7pm that evening I paid for the service, I drove about an hour, I stopped to sleep. Slept for a few hours, woke up and drove home to Blue Grass, Iowa. But the fun wasn't over. After I got home, got ready to go back to Chicago. Only this time, I was going on a two day Travel Tour Bus baseball trip to the last two Cubs games on Saturday and Sunday. That is why I had to be back home that Friday night / Saturday morning, so I could catch my bus to the next two Cubs games. What a long, strange trip it was for me that day.
For those of you that have read this far, thank you. I have wanted to tell my story for a while now. I am looking forward to hearing your stories one by one. Is this a way of life for me? I guess you could say that. But in the end, the sport of baseball in general has always been a way of life for me, finding virtue through a lost cause has become a way of life for me. The Cubs always seem to provide those small miracles for all of us in the good times and during the trying times.
There's a reason why we have so many wonderful and a small number not so wonderful characters within the Cubs network of families. What is that reason? To me, the reasons speak for themselves. We know why, words can't explain all facets to this, it's the actions. The action always speaks louder than the word. So that's why I am hoping that whenever that ultimate glory day comes for us after the final out is finally made, we can show everyone our great sportsmanship. We are the fans from the Friendly Confines, so just celebrate amongst each other. No redemption on anybody that antagonized us throughout the years, nothing. The anti-Cubs fans will be expecting it from us. They will brace themselves, but we won't do it, at least I won't do it, because I like to treat other people the way I want to be treated. It will be the ultimate sportsmanship act from us. I may be dreaming, it might take a miracle, but hey... I believe in miracles. How do you spell belief?