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A Taste Of Things To Come

I told you this team knew how to hit.

OK, so three of the home runs came off Will Cunnane, and we were used to seeing that when he was a Cub, and I was glad that Alex Gonzalez was one of the homer-happy guys, since he hadn't hit one yet this year, and usually A-Gon is one of the guys who starts out real hot and then fades later. Maybe he'll reverse that pattern in 2004.

And the rest of the team hit as well, including a 4-RBI day from Michael Barrett, who's going to have to hit to justify his less-than-Damian-Miller defense, and the Cubs evened up for the year at 3-3 by destroying the Braves 10-2, and I'll bet a happy plane ride home for tomorrow's home opener.

For which I made more preparations today. Jeff had mentioned he might stop by in the early afternoon to pick up some tickets. So I went out for 10 minutes to get a sandwich and forgot my cellphone and guess when he called? Yup, right then. Anyway, I called him back and he did stop by.

I spent part of the rest of the afternoon talking to a customer service rep at Comcast. Why? Well, I had planned to buy the MLB Extra Innings package. And all week they were having a free preview, which was nice, and so yesterday I signed up.

Upon which, promptly, the games vanished from my cable boxes.

Well, I figured this was a classic cable company screwup. Amazingly enough, I was able to reach a rep who not only spoke good English, but actually told me what the problem was. It wasn't just me, apparently they are having a system-wide outage of some of the pay-per-view channels. She agreed to give me a service credit and promised the service would be back by tomorrow. We shall see.

So I went back to watching the Cub game, just in time to see Kerry Wood tie the club record by striking out seven consecutive Braves. Incidentally, that article is wrong -- the record last set by Mark Prior wasn't on August 5, 2002, it was August 15, 2002. Yes, I remember this stuff. Why? I dunno. It's just what I do. Oh, and Wood also accomplished this during his 20-strikeout game on May 6, 1998.

Enough stats. I was absolutely astounded at the number of Cub fans in Atlanta for an early-April series; by the end of the game all the Braves fans had left and it was like a home crowd cheering for the Cubs. This cannot go unnoticed by the players, and this may be what it'll be like on the road almost all year, except in places like San Francisco where tickets are tough to come by. The Cubs generally lead the National League in total road attendance and this year they ought to by a wide margin. Chip was bleating on and on about how maybe the Braves, who the Cubs will now not play for nearly six full months, till October 1 in Chicago, would "stay on for a few days", meaning a possible first-round playoff matchup. Frankly, I don't think the Braves are a playoff-caliber team this year.

The Cubs have so far played only one game in cool weather conditions: Opening Day in Cincinnati where it was in the upper 40's, about what it will be like here tomorrow. The other two games in Cincinnati were played in 70-degree weather, and it was also comfortable for the three games in Atlanta. It'll be a very different game with the wind whipping off the lake tomorrow.

Finally, as the game was ending Jeff called me again to relate this anecdote that was on the WGN radio broadcast, and if you didn't hear it, it's worth it, and it does translate here.

Pat & Ron, who obviously were looking for material with the game out of hand, were discussing Pat's first Opening Day with the Cubs and how cold it was in the booth that day (Jeff wasn't sure, but I think they must have been referring to 1997, when game-time temperature was 29 degrees, the coldest ever at Wrigley Field), and Santo said, "I couldn't feel my toes that day." Then he paused and said, "I still can't."

Let's hope the rest of the year is this much fun. Bring it on.