Monday, September 29, 2008
Cubs v Brewers 5/1/08
So this post is not Mexico related - I just want to forewarn you on that. Unless you want to consider it indicative of the ways in which we stay connected back home even as we live 1686 miles away, south of la frontera...
I cannot resist joining the throngs of Cub fans - literally around the world! - who are thrilled (and on pins and needles) that the Cubbies are heading to the playoffs 100 years after their last World Series championship.
Two other teams may - may - be headed to the playoffs, too. The Chicago White Sox won today to give themselves one more chance to get into the postseason. The Milwaukee Brewers wrapped up the wild card over the weekend. My friend Adam (blog post alias: "From Michigan With Love") demanded props for this on my blog. Well...I'll do this much. In celebration of the Cubbies making the playoffs - and, ok, the Brewers too - I offer this story from five months ago. Our story begins in the spring, not in Mexico but on the North Side of Chicago, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of baseball...
As May began the Brewers were visiting Wrigley again. This would be the last time the Cubs and Brewers played each other before we would all be leaving Chicago. We were, of course, in the midst of academic finals, and had little time to spend an afternoon at a baseball stadium...
On Thursday morning, the day of the last game of the series, I showed up for class to find Adam, my friend who is lifelong Brewers fan, dressed in full Brewers regalia. Now, I had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning working on a paper and so hadn’t thought to counter by wearing any Cubbie blue. So, lacking any other recourse, I started badgering him.
I suggested that we should go to the game to watch the Brewers lose. I hadn’t actually planned on this at all, but soon I was urging him to skip his afternoon class and go – just for the fun of badgering, really. But then I saw a crack, an opportunity. “Ok,” he said. “Find out if there are still tickets, and maybe I’ll go.”
I went home and checked online. Not only were there still a few tickets left, but Carlos Zambrano – the Cubs ace – was pitching, AND Alfonso Soriano, supposedly the Cubs’ superstar, was coming off the DL. Things were adding up fast…it was getting harder and harder to resist this game. So I put on my Cubs hat, Cubs t-shirt, and Cubs jersey and went to find Adam.
“Alright,” he said when I found him, “I’m in. But we have to go to chapel first, and I need you to help out with communion.”
Now, normally I am all too happy to help out with communion, but at this particular moment I was wearing a blaring Cubs outfit with a giant Cubs logo on my shirt – not exactly discrete, reverent clothing. But there was no time to change.
And so it was that twenty minutes later we find ourselves standing in the front of the chapel assisting with communion decked out in the colorful liturgical garb of Brewers and Cubs jerseys. I figured we had made complete fools of ourselves…until chapel ended, when an gentleman who I’ve never seen before – must be visiting LSTC - comes outside to find me. Oh no, I think. He’s going to give me an earful for wearing such a thing in chapel…
“Hey,” he says. “That’s a wonderful statement you two made!” What? He laughs heartily. “Unity in the body of Christ, unity in the National League!” And he walks away, still laughing.
Time to go - it takes a little over an hour to get from Hyde Park to Wrigleyville by public transit. When we finally get there, Adam runs off to get cash at the ATM. I run over to the ticket booth and quickly ask for two tickets in the Upper Deck. The guy working the booth - who already looks grouchy - looks at me like I'm crazy, then shakes his head like I have got to be the dumbest fan in the world. “I only have single tickets that are not together, obstructed view,” he growls. Alright, I say, give me a minute.
I call Adam on my cell and I can barely hear him. I can’t get tickets together, I say.
“What?” he yells. “No tickets together? Hold on.”
There’s a brief pause, and I hear only the cacophony of voices in the background.
Suddenly Adam’s voice rings out clear again. “Hey, thanks! That’s great!”
What? I respond, confused. Dude, what should we do?
“Just wait there, I’ll come find you.”
Uh, okay…And in a moment he’s standing in front of me, holding up two tickets in his hand.
Apparently, while I had been having no luck at the Wrigley Field Ticket Booth, Adam had been standing in front of the ATM listening to two girls deliberate behind him. These two bystanders just happened to have two extra tickets and didn't know what to do with them. Just then I called, and Adam thought fast. When I said I couldn't get tickets, he made sure to respond extra loudly: "WHAT? NO TICKETS TOGETHER?" and within seconds the two girls had handed their two extra tickets to him. For free.
So, armed with our two free tickets, we wander into the stadium and begin trying to find out where our seats are. Suddenly Adam looks up. “Matt,” he says slowly, “I think these are Field Box seats. They're 6th row!” It's true. We enter the lowest entrance to the stands and end up in, yes, the sixth row, right along the first base basepath. Not only did we receive free tickets, we received free tickets six rows from the field at a nearly sold-out game. “This is unreal,” Adam says, over and over. "Unreal!"
We get up close views of every player’s batting stance. We watch crazy plays on the first base line. We see how tall Carlos Zambrano is. We see how wide Prince Fielder is. We watch Prince Fielder, all two hundred and some pounds, run straight into a catcher to avoid an out. Ridiculous plays and unexpected lead changes abound. It’s one of the most exciting baseball games we’ve yet seen in our several Cubs-Brewers games in the last two years.
Foul balls fall all around us. We joke that we’ll catch one – we always bring our gloves to baseball games, after all, as if we were nine years old.
Suddenly a foul ball flies just behind us, bounces off someone’s head and off another’s hand before Adam snaps out his arm and snatches it out of the air with his bare hand. He caught a foul ball!
Everyone around us cheers. Is this really happening? Adam is still shaking with excitement when, a few minutes later, I turn to take his picture. As much as Adam smiles normally, that has got to be one of the biggest grins I have ever seen on his face.
The weather cooperates, too. All during the game the clouds threaten to storm - we're convinced it will rain, given our past bad-weather luck at these things, including snow, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures at more than one game - but on this day it never does.
As for the score, well... My Cubbies take a lead early, but Kerry Wood, our hero of seasons past, blows the save, and the Brewers rally for a win. At this point in the season we’re locked in a tight race for first place, but I have to admit: I’ll take a loss as the price for a day like this.
On the way home, Adam and I talk about perfect days, ranking moments from our autobiographies out loud. Could we talk about anything else right now? When we get home Zach and Jon come over, and we hang out on the porch for a long while, telling stories and eating the Chipotle burritos we’ve picked up on the way home and drinking out of our souvenir cups from past Cubs and White Sox games. Later that night our day is broadcast to the world with Adam’s Facebook status:
“Top five days, easy.”