I grew up with baseball. My earliest baseball memory is playing a wiffle ball game with my father and brother in a living room that was definitely not big enough to support the amount of running we were capable of at three and four years old. Those games grew into neighborhood games that had as many people as we could recruit. All of those neighbors seemed to play on the same Little League team which was coached by the dads in the neighborhood, including mine. I spent those summers at practice, working the hand held scoreboard, scoring the games and sometimes doing the play by play for them. When I was about twelve years old I started writing up some of the more important games for the local paper. Summer was baseball, period.
It was pretty much inevitable that I was going to be a fan of some team and the Cubs won my allegiance early. I grew up in rural Utah in the 1980s so the two teams I could watch regularly were the Cubs (WGN) and the Braves (TBS). I picked the Cubs and my brother picked the Braves. This was 1984, and I clearly had no idea what I was getting myself into but I wouldn’t change a thing.
The more I learned about the team, the more I loved it. Price, Utah is pretty far away from Chicago, so I had to learn about it through books, stories, statistics and TV. The history, loyalty, tradition and pretty much everything I learned about the Cubs reinforced my love of this team. I started recording the day games on our old VHS and running home to watch them before anyone could tell me what I’d missed. There were a lot of evenings I did my homework in the basement with a Cubs game on that was already long since over, because I didn't want to miss anything.
I grew up with the Cubs and they got me through some rough times. I still remember how grateful I was for the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, which happened to coincide with my first broken heart.
It seemed a bit like fate when my first business trip brought me to Chicago for three days in the middle of the summer, and I knew I had to figure out a way to get to Wrigley Field. On July 15, 2002 I got to Wrigley Field for the first time and I will never forget the first time I walked up the steps and saw the beautiful expanse of the field in front of me.
Wrigley Field, that great cathedral of baseball, exceeded my expectations. I teared up a bit on the concourse and one of the ushers correctly realized it was my first time there.* I took pictures and then settled in to keep score. My seat was right by the old bullpen on the third baseline. Since baseball is baseball, it didn’t matter that the Braves were a juggernaut and the Cubs were pretty terrible, because Carlos Zambrano eked out a win over Jason Marquis and the Cubs hit three home runs that day.
*In fairness, I still tear up on the concourse every now and again, prompting ushers to ask me if it’s my first time at Wrigley. What can I say? I’m a bit of a sap and that beautiful old ballpark has a tendency to put dust in my eyes.
A series of events and job changes brought me to Boston, and eventually to Chicago. In 2014, on my first day as a resident of Illinois, some of my new neighbors welcomed me to the neighborhood with bleacher tickets on Labor Day weekend. It was one of the oddest gifts from a stranger I’ve ever received, and it almost felt like the universe welcoming me to my new city in the most perfect of ways.
Then there was 2016, the season I waited over 30 years to witness, and I found myself living five blocks away from the ballpark that still brings tears to my eyes. I saw more incredible moments than I thought I’d see in a baseball lifetime, let alone in a single baseball season. I even found myself writing about baseball again, only this time about my favorite team, during one of the most historic runs in over a century of baseball.
Wikipedia says that fandom is: “a subculture...characterized by empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.” I think that definition is correct, but it doesn’t go far enough. The Cubs are like the soundtrack to my life, good, bad, beautiful and ugly, I can’t help but remember things that happened in conjunction with what was going on with the Cubs at that point in time. It’s a soundtrack I’m lucky enough to share with millions of other Cubs fans, including the awesome people of Bleed Cubbie Blue. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out for many years to come.
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