I have been visiting Wrigley Field for over a decade. I grew up in the Northeast and finally made my first trip to Wrigley Field when I was 30 years old. My wife (girlfriend of only a couple months at the time) gave me a surprise trip to Chicago for my 30th birthday. Airline tickets, a reservation at the W (how appropriate) and Chicago Cubs tickets with Nomar Garciaparra printed on them.
We went to one game on that trip and luckily the weather gods and baseball gods got together that day and decided it would be one of those perfect day baseball days at Wrigley Field. The weather was perfect. The stadium was perfect. The Cubs played the Houston Astros (then of the National League) and although the game wasn’t without its drama and the Cubs lost, being at Wrigley Field for the first time and watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball under the bright sun was absolutely perfect.
A few years later I would take trips by myself to Wrigley while I covered the team writing this blog. I had meetings with the fine people at Vine Line and nearly covered the team for an entire season as a fan correspondent. Unfortunately, the editor at the time left before the fan correspondent column became a reality and I only ended up writing content for the on-line portion of their publication. Not that it mattered, I had actually turned this blog into an opportunity to write for the Cubs’ official publication’s site – something I never expected to happen.
I would make a handful of trips to Wrigley on my own after that, staying with my good friend Michael and hitting a couple of games each trip. Each time I went I prayed it wouldn’t rain so that my trip wasn’t booked for nothing. Trips to Chicago with nothing to focus on but yourself and Cubs baseball sounded amazing. As long as it didn’t rain. Years later I would find out that while those trips were great – trips to Chicago with your family and more specifically your wife and kids – are even greater.
Of course, when you plan a trip from New York to Chicago and bring your whole family along with the intent of bringing them to see the Chicago Cubs – and more specifically to not disappoint your six and three year old – you definitely hope it doesn’t rain.
I have had the luxury of bringing my children to at least one Cubs game each year they have been alive. At first, those games were road games, usually at Citi Field since it is easy to get to in relation to where we live.
In 2015 however, we made our first trek to Chicago as a family – all four of us – me, my wife, my at the time 4 1/2 and at the time 2 year old. The kids fell in love with Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville immediately. The atmosphere, the fans, the souvenir shops – (my God, the souvenir shops) – the concession stands, the field, the sights and sounds, the stretch, the players, celebrating the home runs, the Ws, the W flags and of course ‘Go Cubs Go’.
We made it to two games in September of 2015 and we were in Chicago the day/night they clinched a playoff berth. This year, 2016, we went to two games in June, a time of the baseball season where hopes are high when your team is doing well but nothing is promised or guaranteed. We saw the team win both games in June and we left with great hope that the team just might be able to pull off the ultimate victory this season. This team simply looked that good.
We saw the team when they came to New York in July. Lester was pitching and the team got rocked. Seeing our team is always a win though and especially when we had the chance to meet CJ and Patton in the pre-game warm up and both signed my son’s hat and gave my daughter a high five. We followed the team through the end of the season on MLB.TV and the kids asked to see the highlights of the game from the night before each morning over Cheerios before school. You could see them fall for this team more and more as the season went on and I knew it was starting to mean more and more to them whether the team won the World Series or not. They enjoyed watching this team. My son loved watching Kris Bryant hit home runs that seemed to go farther than he’d traveled in a car and my daughter could pick Rizzo out of a lineup as long as he was wearing the eye black. She would walk around the house in her Rizzo t-shirt this season wiping her fingers under her eyes as if she herself were applying eye black saying ‘Daddy, look…I’m Rizzo!’
As much as it meant to me whether the Cubs would pull it off and follow this unreal regular season up with a World Series victory – the more I could see it meaning to my kids, the less it became about my hoping the team avoided hurting me and more about hoping the team did the seemingly impossible and avoided hurting them.
When the playoffs came we watched the beginning of each game together and the highlights in the morning. It was fun to talk about the game that happened the night before when the Cubs won and hard to keep them positive on a morning following a tough playoff loss. My son would take it especially hard, crying when he thought hope was lost and wondering who at school would give him a hard time about it. Kindergarten isn’t all monkey bars and games of tag I’ll have you know.
Once the team made the World Series, they asked me who are they playing. The Cleveland Indians? Are they good? Are the Cubs going to win? It was a tough road as the team fell behind 3-1 in the Series and each time I’d drop them off at school the principal or teacher would apologize for the situation and I’d muster up a good ‘there’s still a lot of baseball left to play’. Or ‘yeah, but we’ve got Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks coming up next so anything is possible’. It wasn’t easy to keep up the brave facade, but I did it for my kids.
Sitting on the floor at my house wearing my Addison Russell rookie year t-shirt, the one with the number 22 on it, was my strategy to help the team win. Anytime I did those two things the Cubs seemed to turn things around and play great Cubs baseball. So I did – for weeks – and as we know of course – it worked.
For Game 7, my kids were up long enough to see Dexter Fowler lead off the game with a home run. As far as they were concerned, all was well with the world. My three year old went to sleep first and then the six year old. My six year old son told me he didn’t want to talk about it in the morning if the Cubs lost. He couldn’t even bare the thought of it. And out to sleep he went.
I watched the game hoping I wouldn’t have to disappoint him in the morning. Through the Hendricks early exit (pulling), the Lester struggles and the Chapman exhaustion I hoped for the best and then saw the worst. A two-run home run to tie the game and force extra innings.
Oh no. Not again. And this time, not only to me, but my kids. Oh man.
All those fun innings of Cubs baseball at Wrigley Field over the years and those enjoyable games with the kids watching our Cubs and singing Go Cubs Go – will they still want to do it if the Cubs break their hearts? What will they think of being a Cubs fan when they realize that side of it? That for the better part of the past century it hasn’t been all those wonderful things they started to fall in love with but mostly heartache and heartbreak. How will I explain it to them. I need this team to pull this off. I need them to do something they have never done before.
And then I saw something happen in a Cubs game that I am never, ever hoping for and never,ever happy to see.
How long would it last. The Indians have the momentum. How will we get it back. This is awful. It could be hours. It’s happening again. How am I going to explain this. What am I going to say to my kids in the morning. How will I know what to say to their sad little faces when they can tell their team lost.
Luckily – Jason Heyward knew exactly what to say to our Chicago Cubs.
The man who couldn’t hit a lick, struck just the right nerve with this 2016 Cubs team in that 17-minute rain delay. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that team meeting. The team came out and they were firing on all cylinders. It was our Cubs again. The team we know, the team we love. They were getting hits, entertaining the fans and each other and it was perfect.
They took the lead 8-6 and I had a new question to answer.
Should I wake them up to see the end of the game?
I had always hoped for no rain so that we could have the best time possible at Cubs games and now it was RAIN that helped change the momentum and the Cubs were 3 outs away from winning the World Series. They would want to see the Cubs win, right? I should wake them up….right?
The Cubs managed to get an out so I started to wake my son. I decided my three year old daughter was too young to wake up around 1am and she could celebrate in the morning, but the six year old could handle it. I started to wake him up and it took a few minutes to get his eyes open.
When I finally did, the Indians scored a run to make it 8-7.
What have I done.
He didn’t want to even talk about it in the morning if the Cubs lost and now here I am waking him from a slumber to WATCH THEM LOSE? What did I do!?!
After the 2nd out I rolled the dice completely and really pushed to wake him up. Through squinted eyes we watched that weak ground ball hit towards Kris Bryant.
We watched the grin seen ’round the world scoop up the ball and throw it the other NL MVP candidate on the field for the final out of the World Series. And that was it – that was the moment.
THE CHICAGO CUBS WERE 2016 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.
OH. MY. GOD.
All those years of wondering what that moment would look like. All the years of wondering what that moment would feel like. Wondering how I would react. Wondering how I would feel. And in the end, all that mattered was my family and how they felt and how much they enjoyed it.
Many fans thought of loved ones who they had lost and did not get a chance to see the Cubs finally win the World Series. I experienced that as well wishing I could have shared this moment with my grandmother who passed away last fall. However, luckily I also experienced the joy of being able to share the moment with family who are also so happy to simply see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
I loved the moment like I thought I would and I haven’t stopped watching fan reaction compilations, parade and rally highlights and clips of the final out. I probably will stay on this high until Winter Meetings reports come out and we officially start looking at next year. However, that moment wasn’t about me. It turned about to be about my kids and the ones I love.
We will go to games in 2017 and beyond and we will hope it doesn’t rain – yet always noting the irony that it was a rain delay that ultimately helped our favorite baseball team accomplish its ultimate goal.
And we will watch and root and hope we see the Chicago Cubswin the World Series again yet always know that we were lucky enough to be able to see it happen at least once, together.
And seeing the Cubs win the World Series together made it greater than I could have ever imagined that moment to be.
My favorite moment from last night. Thank you @Cubs. pic.twitter.com/tM6X8VdXXI
— Ryan Maloney (@proseandivy) November 3, 2016