We all have our reasons we got hooked on baseball. No specific reasons are better than others. Each story is as individual as the person with the story. Mine isn't necessarily standard, or all that unbelievable. But it is mine, and it molds still who I am as a Cubs fan, as well as why, and what, I follow in the game we love. It also goes a way in explaining why I am so thankful as a Cubs fan this Thanksgiving.
I generally didn't like school. Yeah, almost all kids say that. However, my general dislike of school was a bit different. I didn't mind learning stuff. The stories we read didn't apply to me, necessarily, but it was reading. The math problems only became a problem at a much later age. My teachers were generally competent and interested in their craft.
What I didn't like so much was the student population. I stroll to the beat of my own drummer, always have, and likely always will. I enjoy what I do, and really don't care much about most other things. Kids trying to impress each other and fitting in and..... What a bunch of garbage that was. I was largely cast out for being different. This is still probably unacceptable in school.
My solace was getting home. Away from people. And, of course, flipping on the Cubs game. (This applied even better during summer and on weekends, when I didn't miss the first few innings.) To a large extent, it was Cubs baseball I enjoyed, though to be honest, I followed the White Sox when the Cubs weren't on.
Why did I enjoy Cubs games so much? When I was home watching, Jack Brickhouse treated me like an adult. He told me how the game was progressing, scores from across the league (with the ticker signal in the background), and wasn't dismissive to me because I wasn't one of the popular kids. Brickhouse told me what I needed to know, and that's what I wanted. Not the hiss of school.
However, there was one thing I was never informed of on Cubs broadcasts. Why the Pirates, Cardinals, and Phillies (the three main nemeses growing up) were always so much better than the Cubs. Much discussion goes on about it now on-line and in other forums, but I felt legitimately cheated that other teams had all over the field, and the Cubs were fortunate to have one or two.
Not that the players the Cubs have should have been in the Midsummer Classic. They shouldn't have been, Our guy hit .230, their guy hit .280. I couldn't grasp why there was such a disparity all the time. I knew there was, and it stung. Especially since my first adult decision (at four years old) was to cheer for the Cubs over the Cardinals in the summer of 1969.
As I've often noted, the Internet age provides quite a bit more information of why poor little eight-year-old Tim had a crappy team to cheer for. What happened is largely what should have happened, considering the decisions made on all sides across the league. In general, teams that make wise decisions are rewarded, and their fans get to cheer more for victories than fans of teams who are rather poorly run.
I am thankful now for the Cubs because they are finally being run the way they should have been run the whole time. Yeah, times were different then, but when a team properly emphasizes the future as a priority, then the future will probably be better than if it hadn't.
Admittedly, I'm probably a different kind of fan than most people are. For the same reason I didn't like school. Many kids play mean. I'm not a fan of it now any more than I was then. Sometimes, it even pushes me into being mean, and I shouldn't be.
The Cubs now have people in place to get the most out of the talent they have. Soon, likely, the Cubs three biggest off-season additions will have been widely lauded non-players. Manager Joe Maddon and catching guru (and quality assurance coach) Henry Blanco have been added to the major league squad. Dave Martinez will likely be added in the very near future.
No, that isn't as glitzy as paying over $100 million for a 30-year-old player for a string of years. I'm not opposed to the team doing that, if the executives think it's a wise idea. Have at it, as applicable. What appears to be happening, and would be even more pronounced if Manny Ramirez is added as a coach when he realizes he's finished playing, is that the Cubs will be committed to making the guys they have better than the guys the other team has. From the lowest levels of the minors, as often as possible.
As much as I enjoyed hurrying home to watch Dave Kingman crush homers (and brutalize routine fly balls), I expect to even more enjoy watching opposing pitchers decide whether they want to pitch to Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, or Kyle Schwarber. Yes, there will be free agents added to spice things up. They will be happy to arrive when they can hit sixth in the order, and have players on-base in big games routinely. Yeah, having six or seven really good hitters in the lineup every day would have been really fun for eight-year-old Tim waiting on Joe Wallis to finally figure things out.
Things are about to get fun in Wrigley. In the interim, I get to listen to three teams in the minor leagues that have facilities so much better than their Cubs' system predecessors that the Cubs walked away from Daytona, Kane County, and Boise. I'm not sure which team will be the one I focus on the most, but I look forward to learning the stylings of the announcers for the teams I will be devoted to from April through September.
I'm confident that they will treat me as an adult, as did Jack Brickhouse. This time with the added lagniappe of online exchanges being very likely on Twitter. (I never got to ask Brickhouse anything on Twitter.) While I will miss the crews no longer covering the Cubs system, that doesn't mean they are off my Twitter feed. Though that may change when the Daytona crew starts speaking glowingly of those Reds players. Yuk.
I know my baseball team has had many failures in the past. Many of them came so early in the season that I quit caring about baseball by late in the season. Now, though, even if one or two of the squads from the Venezuelan Cubs to the major league squad falters, I fully expect to have a fun squad to follow somewhere. From the relative safety of my computer screen. And, I'll be happy to share some of what I learn on-line.