Category: Personal Experiences

Meeting Your Idol

Growing up in the 80s and 90s I was a Braves/Cubs fan. I liked the Braves cause my Dad did, but I liked the Cubs because my favorite player was Ryne Sandberg. I wanted to play 2B/SS in little league just like Ryno, and was disappointed every time I played LF or pitched.

I collected every Ryne Sandberg baseball card I pulled from a pack of cards or could trade for. I had t-shirts, jerseys, pictures, posters any and everything of him. I honestly could not tell you why at the age of five or six I chose him as my favorite, but I never wavered.

Flash forward to the present. I bought tickets for the Louisville Bats game on May 12, without knowing much about who they played. The night before the game I read a Twitter post via @LouisvilleBats of Ryne Sandberg signing before the game. I had forgotten Sandberg was the Phillies AAA manager and the Bats were playing them at home. I was pretty excited at the chance to meet my childhood idol.

I’m not one to ask for autographs or to hound a celeb when I see them, but I had to make an exception for Sandberg. I arrived at the field two hours before the game started, stood in line for an 1:15 prior to him coming out and yes, even asked for an auto on my Sandberg shirt. I couldn’t help myself.

It’s been a pretty cool season so far as a Cubs fan: winning tickets to opening day, meeting Paul Maholm, winning another pair of Cubs tickets for the May 20th game (which I could not attend, so I did not accept the tickets), meeting my idol Ryne Sandberg and being able to share all these experiences with all you Cubs fans.

And I have insider scoop, Ryne will be at Ron Santo’s induction; as if that wasn’t expected, but I heard it straight from the source…

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My Cubs’ Pledge

I have read many discussions of pledges Cubs’ fans will make for the 2012 season through the Master Card “Priceless Chicago” campaign. But an article written by Sarah Spain (Sports Center Anchor for Chicago’s ESPN1000 and a reporter for ESPNChicago.com) inspired me to make a pledge as well.

Spain’s article, Fans tie on-field success with off-field antics, makes a personal pledge to run a mile for every Cubs’ win by the end of the season. This pledge encourages her to regain the status of being a runner after being laid off due to injury. I suggested to Spain that she incorporate a charity fund-raiser; some monetary donation for the miles she runs, etc. But if I’m willing to make a suggestion for a pledge, shouldn’t I be willing to do the same?

For every Cubs’ win during the 2012 season, I pledge to:

1) Run 1 mile. I will complete these miles from the end of the Cubs’ season to the beginning of the 2013 season.

2) Donate $2/win to the following charities: the Wood Family Foundation, Dempster Family Foundation and a charity of Paul Maholm’s choosing.

3) If by some miracle the Cubs’ win the World Series, I will donate $500 to each of the above charities.

I encourage all of you to make a pledge of some sort to the Cubs’ 2012 season. Further, I encourage fellow Cubs’ fans to support these charities by making some sort of donation (either on your own or through my pledge).

If the Cubs’ end this terrible 103 season streak, my bank account will be a little lighter…

Go Cubs, Go!

I am One Lucky Cubs Fan

An early post I wrote recanted my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field this past September. I was lucky to have such an experience. The organization had set the bar pretty high, how could any game ever compare to this?

I recently gave into joining the Twitter community, after having ‘bucked’ the system for the past year or so. I began by following Cubs players, following Kerry Wood, Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm and others. Paul tweeted he would host a trivia giveaway on 22 March 2012. The last question Paul asked was who had he [Paul] hit his only career home run off of and where. He also stated the first correct answer would win two tickets for the Cubs home opener. Within seconds I answered. This is the response I received:

I arrived to the game at the game early to pick-up my tickets. I fully expected for the seats to be in the upper section of the stadium, which would have been fine as they were free tickets, but the tickets had a surprise of their own:

We went into the stadium and found our seats, which were on section up from home plate; a great view:

As we’re sitting, waiting for the opening day ceremonies to begin, I check my phone and notice I have a direct message from Paul. He said he was about to come onto the field and would look for me; I figured a friendly wave, head nod or something to that effect. A few minutes later, a gentlemen in a suit approaches us, ask if I am Josh and says Mr. Maholm would like to meet us. We are ushered to a sectioned area and Paul is already there waiting. We shake hands, exchange pleasantries; I wish him luck during the season, he thanks me for my service:

Unfortunately, I have only been to two games at Wrigley Field. However, both games have been experiences that I will never forget. The Cubs’ players and organization have been great to this fan. I’m not sure how many other organizations are the same way, but for these experiences I am grateful!

My First Cubs Game

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have been a diehard Cubs fan of unwaivered support and had yet to visit Wrigley Field; even though I had lived a short two hours west of Chicago for  15 years. Finally, while home on R&R from Afghanistan September 2011, my fiancée (at the time) surprised me with tickets to my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

We had tickets for the September 16th Astros v. Cubs. Our seats were along the third base line, six rows from the bullpen holding area, just to the left of the Cubs dugout. It was a chilly, overcast, autumn day; but I was as excited as a kid on Christmas day. I took pictures of everything visible and was in complete ‘aw’ of the history surrounding Wrigley Field.

The atmosphere was exciting; even though the Cubs post-season chances ended at the beginning of August. However, the real excitement was lying ahead with a couple of surprises my fiancée had arranged.

At the end of the sixth inning, a ‘Cubs Ambassador’ comes to our seats with a VIP package full of Cubs memorabilia and thanked me for my service. I received a few hats, sweat bands, pictures of Wrigley and the starting picture for the Cubs. I thought it to be a pretty generous gift. Then shortly after the seventh inning stretch (sang by Martin Sheen), a Cubs bullpen coach pointed to me and motioned for me to come down!

I approach the ‘sideline’ of the Cubs bullpen, and the Coach identifies himself as Lester Strode. He states he heard that I was home on leave from Afghanistan and attending my first Cubs game. I reply and he says, “From a grateful Cubs organization, (we) thank you for everything you and your family sacrifice for (us).” He then hands me a baseball, shakes my hand, and tells me to be safe with the rest of my deployment.

I return to my seat before I even look at the ball. There’s a grass stain, indicating the ball was used during the game, and 12 signatures. The ball was signed by: Lester Strode (Bullpen Coach), Mark Riggins (Bullpen Coach), Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Lane, Edgar Tovar, Andrew Cashner, John Gaub, John Grabow, Ramon Ortiz and James Russell.

Unbeknownst to me, when I went to the restroom, my fiancée went to the bullpen sideline and spoke to the bullpen coach. She told Lester Strode the circumstances surrounding my first Cubs game, and asked if there would be anyway for a Cubs player to sign a ball and give it to me. Lester told her he couldn’t make any promises, but he would see what he could do. Neither of us expected what Lester did for us.

So the game continues, and of course I’m riding ‘cloud-9’ for the remainder of the game. The Cubs gave up the lead in the top of the ninth, but the game continued into extra innings, twelve to be exact, meaning free baseball. Ultimately, the Cubs pull out the win and you would have thought the Cubs had clinched a playoff berth with the excitement surrounding the ballpark. And then of course, we all sang ‘Go Cubs, Go!’ with the celebration of the win.

All-in-all, this is an unforgettable first Cubs game at Wrigley Field and the Cubs organization really went out of their way. But my fiancée made all of this possible and I’m lucky to have shared the experience with a woman like her.