I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life. Growing up in southern Illinois, I spent countless hours each summer watching the Cubs on WGN. All baseball fans have a team that you consider to be “your team” from when you were growing up. Don Zimmer and the 1989 Cubs were my team. But as many of us do, I got busy, went to college, and became an adult (all, sadly in a market far from Chicago, where no Cubs games were on TV). I got to see the 2003 Cubs play in the NLDS in Atlanta, and watched in agony as that same team let victory slip through their fingers (through absolutely no fault of a die hard Cub fan wearing earphones who just happened to have a great seat along the left field wall). Time and years passed, and at the end of 2015, I caught the Cubs post-season run, which though it ended in disappointment, was really exciting. I knew I needed more baseball in my life, if that is your case as well play now online.
Before the first game of the season, I bought the MLB.tv single season pass. I don’t remember exactly what it cost, but having Cubs baseball in my life again was a much-needed breath of fresh air. And not only was it just Cubs baseball, it was that rarest, most amazing type of Cubs baseball: the kind where we win all the time!
I actually got to attend two Cubs games during the season – one in May when they were visiting the Washington Nationals (who play not far from where I live) and another at Wrigley. I made a trip up to northern Illinois for a family reunion – and when you come that far, you might as well take a detour of a few more hours and take in a game.
Neither game worked out so well. And while it hurt in the moment – I’ve got some great memories and was able to share those with my family. Combine those with all the games we watched on TV (and even a few in a small window on my third monitor), and it makes for an amazing season.
Fast forward to the end of the season, and somehow – they really did it! Through an amazing run through the early playoffs, the Cubs were going to be in the World Series. And while Game 1 didn’t pan out quite the way I’d hoped (hey, gotta hand it to Kluber, he was crazy dominant), I was enjoying the very beginning of Game 2 one October Wednesday night, when I heard my phone ding, and I knew it was Slack. Because I’m responsible for when anything might go wrong on the sites we host, I checked the message. It was Zach. Great.
“Hey, we just got a report from a client that a bunch of our sites are down.”
“Great.” I thought to myself. “Awesome way to start the World Series.”
“Which ones?” I asked.
“I’m sending over an email. Paul’s got a list from the client.”
I sat up and sighed. Seriously? This is how I’m spending Game 2 of the Cubs in the World Series?
The email came across with a subject line you hate to see: URGENT: Multiple Sites Offline!!
Awesome. Just awesome. So I opened it up, and something didn’t look quite wright. This email was much more polished, had a huge Cubs logo, and was formatted like the ones we send out to clients. At the very top in small, italicized print:
“Just kidding, everything is fine… keep reading.”
The email continued.
“On Friday, October 28, 2016, at about 7:08pm CT, and for the first time in 71 years, there is going to be a World Series game played at Wrigley Field…”
I scrolled down past the image.
“… and you’re going to be there (like for real). Details below:”
I was somewhere between shock and disbelief.
What followed was the details of my itinerary which had been covertly planned with my wife and my cousin who lives in Chicago, as well as an incredibly gracious letter, thanking me for my years of hard work, and letting me know that I was sincerely appreciated.
Wow. I’m looking at the email now for reference as I write this, and I’m still getting twinges of that sense of wonder almost two months later.
Two days later, I left my house early in the morning to make the 45 minute drive to Dulles Airport. There had been a mixup on the dates with the airline, so we’d just gotten that ironed out the night before and I was flying a different flight than what I’d originally planned. As I walked around the airport, I couldn’t find the sign with my flight on it. That was odd. So I found an American Airlines employee, showed her my boarding pass, and asked her where I should go. She looked up at me, and said a few words that no traveler ever wants to hear:
“You’re at the wrong airport.”
When my flight was rescheduled, I failed to notice that I was to leave from Reagan, not from Dulles. My heart sunk for a moment, and then my mind kicked into high gear. I had no idea how long it would take me to get to Reagan, but I had one advantage – I had arrived at the airport crazy early. I ran – literally ran – to my car from where I was, paid the $6 for about 20 minutes of parking, and let Google Maps get me to Reagan from Dulles in just about 45 minutes – starting at 9:15am on a Friday.
I made it and had about 30 minutes to spare. First near heart attack avoided.
Now that I was a bit calmer, I couldn’t help but notice all the Cubs gear everywhere. Here I was in Washington DC, and easily 20% of the people I saw in the gate area were wearing Cubs gear (granted, this was a flight to Chicago).
The flight itself was blissfully uneventful.
I stepped off the plane and was greeted by an O’Hare Airport which was Flying the W everywhere! It was a sight to behold. I’d made plans to meet my cousin for lunch. He works downtown, so it was easier to meet him there, hand off my stuff which I didn’t want to take to the game, and then go to Wrigley from there.
I rode the train from O’Hare to downtown, and was in disbelief that I was there. How cool was this!? The Cubs are in the World Series, and I’m in Chicago. Like millions of other people now in close proximity to me, I’d been waiting my whole life for this.
My cousin and I had lunch at Max’s Takeout on Adams Street. If I worked downtown, I’m pretty sure I’d be a regular. After an enjoyable lunch, and walking around downtown for a bit, we went to the Red Line station, where I decided at around 2pm to make the trek to Wrigley.
At 2pm (for a 7pm game, mind you), the first train was so crowded that I couldn’t even get in the door. I had to wait for the next one. Finally, after being in close quarters to so many other Cubs fans for the ride up there, I exited the train, and got a glimpse of Wrigley Field.
It was now approximately 2:45pm, and the atmosphere outside the stadium was absolutely electric. I’d heard the gates would open at 4:30. The gate closest to the Addison Street station already had a pretty substantial line! I wasn’t sure that I wanted to wait in line this early, but there was something that I knew I absolutely had to do.
And like countless other Cub fans before me, I made the now much shorter trek around the stadium to the famous marquee and took my picture there. Except unlike countless throngs of Cub fans who have taken their picture there, the letters on the marquee behind me read:
I think it was one of the coolest sights I’d ever seen.
The talk amongst the other fans was that the wait to get into any of the Wrigley establishments was even longer than to get into the stadium, so I just stood at one of the many gates that had been set up right in front. It just so happened, I was first in line.
I stood in line for almost 2 hours, with nothing to do, and I had a great time. Cameras were rolling. Cars driving by were honking. People were cheering. A couple got engaged! It was crazy, it was awesome.
Then the time came I’d been waiting for. I got through security, and I was the first one at my gate to have a man reach for my ticket, scan it, lean in toward me with a smile on his face, and he said five words I’ll never forget for the rest of my life: “Welcome to the World Series!” It gave me chills (and still does even now as I write this).
Though a lifelong Cubs fan, this was only my fourth time to Wrigley Field. I was still taking it all in. I had however, been there enough times to know that a truly amazing sight was waiting for me as I ascended the steps up to the field level. I thought ahead and got out my phone and started recording video to then share it with my family thanks to to the postpaid sim only plans we all got. But I didn’t want to miss it by experiencing this moment on an LCD screen (I can do that anytime). I started the recording, held it as steady as I could, and walked up the stairs, with my eyes wide open.
Wrigley Field is always a beautiful place. But walking up those stairs, and seeing that beautiful, beautiful field, surrounded by the charming stadium, emblazoned with the official World Series logo on the turf, and populated by literally hundreds of reporters – it was beyond amazing.
I spent some time out near the visiting bullpen (my seat was on the first base side after all). I came fairly close to getting a few batting practice balls, but after a while, I decided to get some food and head to my seat. It was about this time that friends who had seen my posts on Facebook began to text me. It was a really cool experience – posting some things in real time, talking to friends “I’m really here!”
Eventually, the game began. Of course, by now, the game itself is history, and we all know that the Cubs lost that one in a 1-0 nailbiter. But the game itself was the single most exciting game I’ve ever been to. We were up and down it seems every inning. Every time we had a chance at a strikeout, we got up on our feet. Every time Hendricks struck a batter out or Baez turned a double play, total strangers began high fiving each other, celebrating as one.
Tonight I watched the World Series documentary that MLB produced (the BluRay version was a Christmas present). As I watched it, I relived those experiences – and not just that single, truly amazing game (with an albeit disappointing ending) – but the whole season. It’s not just a game – it’s a passion. It’s a way to be part of a community, of something so much larger than yourself. And while nothing can ever take anything away from the millions of Cub fans who never got the chance to see what I did, I am now privileged to be one of the relatively few thousand people (compared to millions of Cub fans and billions of people on Earth) who had the privilege of being there, for the first World Series played at Wrigley Field since 1945. I’m now forever a part of that community. I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and I got to experience it in person.
All thanks to a truly amazing group of people that I work with and the graciousness and generosity that they bestowed upon me. To twist a phrase of a fellow Cub fan in a media release he should never have had to give:
From the bottom of this Cub fan’s grateful heart, thank you.
And don’t scare me like that about our sites going down. ;)
At Bright Oak, we believe strongly in a good balance of work and life. Most of us work from home, so getting out is important. These articles below are mostly travelogues from our team who have traveled all over the place and have seen and experienced a lot of amazing places & things.
Paul answers - “Damnit, I was going to call you and say that a client was really upset, and then make you check your emails to get back to them. Oh well, you’re going to New Zealand!”