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…
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!
I was fortunate to attend Cubs’ Opening Day for the start of the 2012 MLB season (a great recap of the game can be found here). While driving back to Fort Knox, I listened to ESPN 1000 to catch highlights of opening day from around the league. Instead, what I found myself listening to was disheartened Cubs fans angry and bitter about the Cubs opening day lose. I had to turn off the radio, I felt so betrayed.
Fans commented on many aspects of the game: stating this was typical Cubs fashion, a sign of things to come throughout the season, terrible pitching from the bullpen, poor decisions from Sveum, a lackluster ball club, Theo should become accustom to these events and many others. These were not the same Cubs fans I have read and listened to throughout spring training. Where was the excitement, the hope, the understanding that the organization is in a revamping stage?
Consider the following factors:
1) Before Wood/Marmol gave away the Cubs’ lead, Dempster pitched an impressive game (7-2/3IP, 2H, 3BB, 1ER, 10SO). However, it took Dempster three innings to adjust to the weather conditions (explained in my next point) and to the home plate umpire’s strike zone. Dempster struggled with his command early (his three walks were in the first/third innings) and gave up two big hits (which could have resulted in seven runs for the Nationals, but thankfully the wind was blowing into Wrigley). Wood had 25 pitches and Marmol had 16 pitches to make adjustments; it took Dempster 54 of 108 pitches to make these same adjustments before he ultimately gained his composure and retired the next 11 batters. Wood also had 41,000 fans chanting on opening day with a 1-0 lead, which would shake any vets’ nerves.
2) The drastic change in weather conditions between Mesa, AZ and Chicago was evident for Dempster and Wood. Granted, the weather in Chicago has been above average this spring, the average temperature throughout March in Mesa was 77 degrees (84 degrees the last 10-days of March). Yesterday’s high temperature was 49 degrees with winds bellowing between 17-22mph during the game. The cold was obviously hindering Dempster and Wood’s grip and control of the ball as they both blew hot air on their pitching hand in attempts to warm-up.
3) Yes, the Cubs have struggled with base running and the coaching staff indicated they worked on this area throughout the spring. Joe Mather’s performance yesterday has fans scratching their heads in wonderment, thinking “Really!?” Understand, Mather came into the game as a pinch runner, standing on third, representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning, on opening day. Should he have run? No. Why did he run? More than likely the excitement got to him. This is in no-way shape or form an indication of unimproved base running.
Granted, Cubs fans have every reason to be disgruntled with the organization throughout the past 103 seasons. However, if I felt that the true blue Cubs fans were betraying their team after just one game (the first game) of the season, I’m sure the Cubs players/organization feel the same way. My advice to Cubs fans: remain loyal to your team; don’t go off the deep-end after the first blown game of the season (it happens in 162 games!); and have hope, understand the organization is revamping and look forward to the next few seasons – we’re moving in the right direction.
IN THEO WE TRUST!