One Summer Day

July 3, 2011
Despite the passage of time, the wounds were still ragged and unhealed. The wounds have lasted over a century, and they remain still to this day. Despite numerous opportunities, the Cubs have failed to win that elusive World Series title. Yet for some reason unknown to many, the Cubs still draw a full capacity crowd to nearly every home game. Maybe it is because, despite their team being less than elite, they appreciate baseball for what it really is, and relish any opportunity to see it in person. That is what I got to do on one beautiful afternoon in Chicago. Not only that, I got to spend it with someone I dearly love.

Does God like baseball? That is a question that will get a variety of answers. There is no doubt in my mind that there are qualities of baseball, and opportunities that baseball presents, that God most certainly plays a part in. God created us to live in community together, and baseball is one of the best ways to do that. For one day in Chicago, baseball allowed me to experience several memories with my grandfather that I am sure I will never forget.

My grandparents live in Chicago, they are the reason that I am the passionate Cubs fan that I am today. My grandfather and I have always done fun things when I am in town. We have ridden the "El" (Chicago's elevated train system) and the bus countless times to get downtown. We have gone to the famous Navy Pier and have ridden the Ferris Wheel. Trips have been made to visit famous sites such as the Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Hancock Building. These are all exciting endeavors, but perhaps my favorite memories with my grandfather come from the very roots of American sports...watching a baseball game.

For the rest of this to make sense, one needs to have a basic understanding of baseball, and more specifically how it differs from other popular sports. Baseball, much to the chagrin of many people, is by nature a slow game. There isn't constant action like there is in basketball. There isn't body to body contact like football. Baseball is a game based on strategy. Many teams play "small ball" baseball, meaning they move players from one base to the next. This can be a slow process to say the least. However, what this may lack in constant entertainment affords the ability to sit and talk with those around you. Even the most avid baseball fan would admittedly get bored sitting and watching a baseball game by themselves. Baseball is a game of community. I believe that one of the best ways to spend an afternoon is sitting and watching a baseball game, whether in person or on television, with those around you. That is the opportunity I had the chance to experience with my grandfather in Chicago this summer.

I am an avid Chicago Cubs fan. They are, admittedly, a team that is horrific, and has been so for about a century. But, "once a Cubs fan, always a Cubs fan." I rarely get the chance to see them play in their home stadium, Wrigley Field. When my mom gave me tickets before I went up to Chicago, I was elated. Wrigley Field is the most beautiful park in the Major Leagues, and one of the oldest too. Its walls are covered with lush, green ivy and its famous marquee is a famous welcoming sight for baseball fans everywhere. My grandfather and I left for the game around 10:30, even though the game didn't start until twenty past one. I wanted to see some of batting practice, and it takes about an hour to get from the house to Wrigley. Part of the game day experience is riding the public transportation in Chicago. Realistically, it would be possible for a Chicago civilian to not need a car, yet get anywhere they wanted to within the city. The first stop was to catch a bus. After waiting anxiously for the bus' arrival, we boarded and I inserted my bus pass. I have put that card in plenty of times, but I still struggle with putting it in backwards occasionally. We rode the bus to the "El"(evated) train station and boarded the train. The El is an experience everyone needs to partake in, it still excites me after so many years. After a few minutes on the El, it was time transfer again-this time to another bus that would take us to Wrigley. We boarded a bus along with plenty of other Cubs fans. We were fortunate enough to get seats, others had to stand while holding the handles (not as easy as it may seem.) As we got closer, the anticipation grew. Finally, we arrived at our destination...Wrigley Field.

I have always loved Wrigley. There is something different and unique about it; there is a certain mystique about it that can’t be found anywhere else. The atmosphere is electric. As we ventured to our seats in Section 213, couldnt’t help but begin to worry. The Cubs were facing the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, and facing hurler Matt Cain. However, I did find some reassurance in that the Cubs were throwing their ace Carlos Zambrano. The first inning passed rather uneventfully, with both Zambrano and Cain making it through the inning unscathed. However, the game took an unusual turn in the second inning. After a leadoff walk, Zambrano covered first base on a bunt attempt. When unsuccessful, he decided to throw the ball to second and nab the runner. Unfortunately, he spiked the ball in the dirt, allowing the runner to get to third base. With the Cubs already being down 1-0, this was unfortunate. To make matters worse, Zambrano appeared to feel some pain after the play. He was taken out of the game, and this meant that the Cubs had to use their often unreliable bullpen for 8+ innings…usually a recipe for disaster. However, Cubs hurler Marcos Mateo managed to pitch a dominant 5 innings. The Cubs failed to score, and the game carried on in dull fashion until the bottom of the ninth inning. The score remained 1-0, and the Cubs faithful were rapidly losing hope. My grandfather was quickly becoming bored, yet I still had a tinge of hope. This hope quickly deflated as the first out was made. Then, Aramis Ramirez came to the plate.

The pitch came in, and I heard the crack of the bat. It was a high fly ball into deep left field. The fans stood in unison as they watched the flight of the ball. As it eluded the boundaries of the playing field, roars erupted. The Cubs had managed to tie the game. The game went into extra innings. The game carried on, the Cubs managing to avoid multiple bullets throughout the way. That is, until the 13th inning. The Giants best player, Pablo Sandoval (nicknamed “Panda” because of his unusually wide girth), hit a booming home run to left field, the near identical spot as Ramirez had hit the game tying home run. All of the sudden, the Cubs found themselves down by a run and only three outs to redeem themselves. Could lightning strike twice? The Cubs quickly got two outs, sucking a lot of life out of the crowd. As the seagulls began to look for the bits and pieces of remaining concessions, it appeared as though this game was a lost cause. However, the Cubs stayed alive when Jeff Baker hit a ringing double off of the ivy in left center field. With two outs, Cubs rookie Darwin Barney hit a chopper through the hole on the left side of the infield. Baker was chugging around from third base, and was being sent home. After a high throw from the left fielder Cody Ross, the Cubs had come back once again, after being down to their last strike. The next batter was walked intentionally, to bring Cubs catcher Geovany Soto to the plate. The pitch came in, and again it was a high drive to left field. Again the crowd rose in unison, to see the ball leave the park. The crowd erupted, and bedlam ensued. Soto trotted around the bases and met his elated team mates at the plate. The Cubs had come from the jaws of defeat-twice-to send their fans home in a frenzy.

Needless to say, this is a memory that I will never forget. Most importantly, it was a memory that I got to share with my grandfather. Baseball has a way of bringing people together, and that is exactly what it did on a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon in downtown Chicago.

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