I met Rhonda and Tom at last fall's renovation groundbreaking ceremony, where we mistakenly showed up, thinking the event was open to the public. Despite not being allowed in, it was an opportunity to make new friends, culminating in hanging out with Wayne and Kathleen Messmer for 45 minutes while looping around Wrigley for a self-guided construction tour.
Friday was a different story, however, as the Cubs hosted Family Day for season ticket holders, where fans were given a free hot dog and chips, and free rein of much of the ballpark for two hours. I'm not a STH, preferring Stubhub, friends with extras, and scalpers, but thanks to Rhonda, who generously invited me to use an extra ticket, I was able to walk onto Wrigley Field with hundreds of catch-playing Moms and Dads with their exuberant youngsters on Friday. It's something I hadn't done since Chuck Rainey was in the starting rotation, at an on-field youth baseball clinic.
Family Day is a wonderful event that gives the Cubs faithful the feeling that the ballpark is theirs for a few hours. I would have loved the opportunity to play catch with my dad as a kid in the outfield grass. (Even though he inexplicably threw and caught exclusively with his right hand.) But even a childless cynic like me could not escape the palpable aura of fan family togetherness present at yesterdays Dia de los Familias.
Fans also got the opportunity to visit the Audi Club, where Bob Dernier signed autographs and leftover giveaways were meted out (I got a Ron Santo shirt and some super ugly Zumba pants). Dernier told stories of driving with his teammates to the World Series as a Phillie, and how he loved being a Cub with players like Lee Smith and Tim Stoddard who were so big and scary, no one would dare mess with him. I was less than impressed with the Club itself however. Though nice enough for Audi Club ticket holders, the bathrooms at Captain Morgan's Club are nicer!
I also visited the press box where the indefatigable Gary Pressy was tickling his organ. I could feel the ghosts of history as I peered into each tiny broadcast booth, and almost smell the old sportswriter cigar smoke in the walls. But then again, maybe that was my hoodie.
Add a little free Apple Pie flavored cotton candy, a drink out of the visitors dugout water cooler, and a 20 percent discount at the Cubs store across the street where I snagged a new Cubs wallet from the kids section, I'd say it was a successful afternoon!
I'm so glad I decided to go to the groundbreaking ceremony last October, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have met new friends Rhonda and Tom, and wouldn't have had the opportunity to traipse around Wrigley like I owned the place on Friday. Isn't being a Cubs fan the best? Even if you don't have a family, you still feel like your part of one. Thanks for adopting me yesterday Rhonda and Tom! I'm forever your grateful son.