I Had a Weekend

Cubs Con haul 2015And really, that’s the best way to say it. This past weekend was just so bizarrely jinxed that it was both frustrating and great at the same time.

The main event of my weekend was Cubs Con 2015, which was to begin Friday evening and conclude at noon on Sunday. As such, I booked my hotel room at the con hotel for Friday and Saturday night and booked my train tickets for Friday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Friday morning I awoke to an email at 5 AM because I was a chump and forgot to mute my phone before going to bed. Before hitting the mute button, I saw the email is from Amtrak concerning my train. Glorious. I’ll deal with this when I decide to be awake.  When that time came, I saw that I also missed a call from Amtrak around 6 AM (I’m glad I muted my phone at 5). Both of these things pertain to the fact that the train is late and I may want to consider other options.

This all makes me cranky, but once I drink some coffee and see how late the train is running, I find my center. So I get to stay home an extra hour. Time for a second cup of coffee. No big deal.

Long story short, the train ended up being over two hours late (we left about the same time we should have been arriving in Chicago), it was delayed twice on the tracks (once for at least half an hour while we waited for another train to pass us), and I finally get to Union Station after 5 o’clock, where my favorite Cubs friend Harry is waiting. We took a cab over to the hotel, got me all checked in, ditched our stuff in my room, rode down in the elevator with a guy that said he was Jorge Soler’s agent, and only missed the first few minutes of the opening ceremonies of the con.

After participating in the autograph hunt (we got C.J. Edwards, who is a nice young man), we went upstairs to grab our coats and ended up riding back down in the elevator with Kyle Hendricks and his lady. They are also nice  young people.

We went to dinner at Big Bowl, which is one our favorites, and thus began our interesting service experiences. This time we had to request proper silverware and napkins, which of course is no big deal. We didn’t realize it would be a sign of things to come.

After dinner, we met up with some of the Cubs fans of Twitter, which was a good time. I got to meet some new folks that I didn’t follow and put the faces to the names of some that I did. Once the initial awkwardness is out of the way, everything just rolls, ya know.

The next day, Harry and I got autographs: Justin Grimm, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Sweeney, and the illustrious Jim Deshaies. All very nice people. I told Ryan Sweeney no injuries this year.

We took a break for lunch and ended up eating at the bistro in the hotel. The food was good, but the service was awful. Our waiter couldn’t have openly despised us more. It took him forever to bring Harry a simple glass of water and when he brought him mayonnaise, it was one of the little jars you get if you order room service and it had already been used. Like, there was a glob of ketchup in it. And the waiter was really unimpressed when Harry asked him for a new, unused one. Needless to say, that guy didn’t get much of a tip.

Mystery Ball 2015While getting our afternoon autographs, Harry was in need of a second wind in the form of coffee. The line at the coffee place in the hotel was crazy, so we ended up going back later. When Harry finally did get his coffee, there was no half and half and he had to wait to get more. At this point it was becoming clear that liquids would not come easily to my friend.

However, Harry did get to ride in the elevator with Addison Russell and C.J. Edwards, so his elevator luck was way better than mine.

We went to dinner that night at Eataly. It was an hour wait, so we went for an appetizer and a drink at the pub they have there. Again Harry asked for a water. Again he had to remind our server to get it for him (but this guy didn’t despise us, he was just really busy). But! When we had dinner, Harry had no drink trouble. So that was a nice surprise.

Sunday, I was on my own. I went down to the con, bought a cube for the mystery ball I’d gotten the afternoon before (I ended up getting James Russell, of course) and bought some Cubs socks as well. Then I prepared to leave.

I should have known that I was in for it when my cab driver managed to hit most of the red lights. But I was optimistic. The trains leaving Chicago are more likely to leave on-time. It’d be fine. I had a nice lunch at Union Station and then I went down to the waiting area.

My train was scheduled to leave at 1:45. At 1:15 it was announced that it was delayed because they had to repair something and it could be forty-five minutes to an hour.

Pigeons WaitingAnd I laughed a madman’s laugh.

Luckily for me, a couple of pigeons had gotten into the waiting area and when they weren’t waddling about, looking for food, they were buzzing people’s heads as they flew around, so I was at least entertained.

After three other trains scheduled after mine had left and they announced they were waiting on the conductor because he had apparently wandered off for coffee and a smoke and we stood waiting to board because they announced that we were boarding, but took it back, we finally got on the train. And then the train started to move!

And then the train stopped in the yard while they fixed something else.

To make a long story short (too late), three crying babies, a guy with a Budweiser wondering out loud if he could find his seat, and many atrocious cell phone ringtones later, we arrived at the station, a good two and a half hours after we should have.

One car ride later, I arrived home with my convention swag and this tale.

Pictures: Cubs vs. Astros 10/1/12

Pictures from my last Cubs game of the 2012 season and the Cubs 100th loss. Don’t let the downer qualities of that sentence fool you. I had a good time.

This is where Pat and Keith live.
This is where Len and Bob live.
Jason Berken’s first pitch of the game.
Dave Sappelt at the plate.
James Russell on the mound.
Len and Bob singing the stretch. This is when Pat Hughes waved at me.

 

Carlos Marmol closing it out.
Until next year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations on a Tiff

It’s like an aggressive Where’s Waldo picture.

When the Cubs and Nationals “brawled” last week many fans immediately got on their high horses to give their opinions on the whole thing. And that’s fine. I, on the other hand, tried to get down as close as I could to the action so I could see what was going on.

Baseball fights fascinate me. Most of the time it looks like a typical “guy fight” (some pushing, some shoving, a few crappy punches maybe, and a whole lot of yow-yowin’). The cause doesn’t interest me as much as who does what during the confrontation. Who’s first out of the dugout? Who leads the charge from the bullpen? Who’s playing peacekeeper? Who’s looking for a piece of the action.

I must have watched this tiff forty times (and paused 140 times) to get an idea of what was going on. And since this bruhaha had two bench clearings and three separate altercations, there was a lot to see.

Round One:

-The Cubs in the dugout really weren’t paying much attention to Jamie Quirk yelling at Bo Porter.

-When Bo Porter stopped at the top of the dugout stairs, the first guys to Dale Sveum’s side were Tony Campana, Luis Valbuena, Wellington Castillo, and Jeff Samardzija.

-James Russell led the charge from the bullpen.

-Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro strolled over to the confrontation. Alfonso Soriano and Brett Jackson hustled.

-Jeff Beliveau peeking over the bullpen fence at the fuss cracks me up every time I see it.

Round Two:

-Joe Mather, Campana, Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, Samardzija, and Anthony Recker were first out of the dugout after Lendy Castillo went inside on Bryce Harper.

-Russell again led the charge from the bullpen. Carlos Marmol and Manny Corpas were laughing and nudging each other as they ran in. Franklin Font runs pretty damn fast while wearing shin guards.

-Even Lester Strode ran in! (PS. I love Lester.)

Round Three:

-Corpas was part of the reason round three started. Anthony Rizzo tried to play peacemaker.

-Russell, Samardzija, Recker, and Blake Parker were right on the front line.

-Barney kind of got sucked into the crowd at one point, but they spit him out unharmed. Same thing happened to Rizzo.

-Some guys moved to the back of the crowd, some guys couldn’t get close enough. Chris Volstad, Campana, and Wood were three looking to get in on it. Travis Wood looked like this wasn’t his first rodeo. (I’m sure he and his mullet have seen many bar brawls.) (That was a joke.)

-Bryan LaHair was one of the peacekeepers.

-A Nats player had a hold of the front of Samardzija’s jersey and was swinging from it like a monkey when everyone was doing their share of shoving and I’m not sure Shark noticed.

-Some how Kurt Suzuki managed to keep a towel around his neck the whole time despite being in the thick of things at one point. (I wasn’t going to keep this strictly Cubs, but that really impressed me.)

-Dale Sveum and Dave McKay looked pretty calm throughout the whole thing. Pat Listach must have rowdy kids. He looked like a dad breaking things up. James Rowson was right in the thick of things, pulling guys apart and separating them.

-Many of the guys had a look of “WTF?” on their faces. Those guys were more to the back of the most pit. Several players (David DeJesus was one) didn’t seem to get too excited.

I was kind of impressed with the way the Cubs came together. Everyone answered the fight bell (okay, the second time Soriano jogged in, but he really needs to preserve his wheels) and while tempers flared, there were enough cooler heads to keep things from getting too out of hand. Everybody seemed to feel the need to protect his teammates. Nobody was left to hang. I appreciate that.

Yes, I realize this is unpopular opinion. But then, isn’t every opinion I have about baseball/the Cubs unpopular?

Yeah. Put away your surprise face.

Casino Night 2012 Pictures

Between Harry and me, we only got a handful of pictures to share. I’ll be honest, I didn’t whip out my phone until the end of the night and the three pictures I managed to capture reflect that.

Honestly, I need a professional photographer to accompany me to these sorts of things because I am terrible.

Also, it’s easy to tell the difference between Harry’s pictures and mine. Harry’s are the good ones. I also thanked him in every caption.

Harry and I at Casino Night taken by a professional photographer who may or may not have been riding the biggest sugar high ever.
Bryan LaHair dealing (thanks Harry!).
Ian Stewart dealing (thanks, Harry!).
Carlos Marmol. I’m resisting the urge to make a joke about a line forming for the Marmol Coaster. (I didn’t resist hard.) (Thanks, Harry!)
Theo Epstein talking to Dale Sveum. (Thanks, Harry!)
Crystal Bowersox performing.
Somewhere in there is Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad, and James Russell.
That tall guy on the right is Chris Volstad.
That bald guy on the left is Paul Maholm.
David DeJesus and his lovely wife Kim (with cameos by Sarah Spain and Theo Epstein). (Thanks, Harry!)

Casino Night

Wednesday night, by virtue of the fine people at Wrigleyville Magazine, I and my friend Harry attended The Dempster Family Foundation Casino Night. It’s a fundraiser to help raise money to help those with 22q disorder, a chromosomal disorder. It’s very classy, very expensive, and very fun.

The first hour was the VIP experience where we got to mingle with the players, past and present, and other athletes and local celebs. I admit that I did more people watching than mingling. I’m not a good mingler anyway, but put me in that situation and I was a little overwhelmed. It’s an interesting experience to be waiting in line at the bar with Bryan LaHair or have to scootch past Matt Garza or Dale Sveum to get somewhere. Just surreal. And a little intimidating when the players would group together for conversation. It’s daunting for a not good mingler to approach that.

We moved to the gaming room at 7 where the players and others worked the tables. There was also an auction, a silent auction, and a raffle. Since Harry and I knew we wouldn’t be able to participate in the big stuff (there were things that sold at the auction for 20 grand), we each bought mystery bags. We also got little goodie bags as we left the VIP room with a t-shirt and shot glass.

John Vincent and Crystal Bowersox both performed sets. I never head Crystal Bowersox before and I have to say, I quite enjoyed her.

Theo Epstein was a hit at the blackjack table as he would intentionally bust his hand at times by pulling a card, then throwing it away. Ian Stewart’s table seemed pretty popular, too. Harry and I played at a less popular table and our dealer, a lovely woman, was a tough one! But we still managed to leave the table winners, always managing to come back from the brink of bust.

We were two of the stragglers reluctant to clear out at the end of the night. I was pretty impressed with the guys that stayed the whole time. Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm, James Russell, Darwin Barney, Kerry Wood, even Theo Epstein were still around after the lights came on (obviously, Ryan Dempster was still around).

It was a great night for a great cause and I know I’m not doing it any justice (I’m writing this on four hours sleep and a three hour drive).

Just take my word for it. I’m thrilled to have experienced it.

Kiki’s Guide To Being a Bad Fan

Photo of a Bad Fan.

During Opening Day, I tweeted that my new Cubs fan followers made a poor choice because I would piss them off, to which one of my old Cubs fan followers added, “Kiki enjoys losing baseball. Beware.”

There’s a point in this statement that I have to argue. I don’t enjoy watching my team lose. I enjoy watching them win. I’d like them to win. I root for them to win. I do, however, enjoy my team despite a loss. It drives people mad (which I enjoy).

And it makes me a bad fan.

There are a lot of perks to being a bad fan. First of all, my day isn’t wrecked by a Cubs loss. I get bummed out, sure, but the boys losing 2-1 isn’t a disaster of epic proportions that results in me needing to drink. Hell, the guys losing 13-1 isn’t enough to make me require alcohol. They lost. Bummer. I guess I’d better get dinner started. Put on The Monkees.

Man, that pisses people off.

It drives them insane that I can enjoy a team that’s not very good. I’m from the school of “dance with the one what you brought”. This isn’t fantasy baseball. I have no input in who ends up on the Cubs this year, last year, or next year. These are the players I’ve got. I’m going to get to know them, cheer for them, praise them when they do well, and enjoy whatever they can bring to the table, even if it’s just a cute face.

Lunacy!

Now, sports fans, don’t think that this sort of attitude means I can’t have an intelligent discussion about baseball and about the Cubs, that I don’t like such things. I do. I’m as realistic as the next fan when it comes to assessing my teams talent in the form of statistics. I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know just how well I interpret the implication of David DeJesus’s OBP and James Russell’s flyball/grounder ratio. I can dig discussions about what the Cubs need, what trades they should make, the best use of a player, etc.

What I can’t stand is the gloom and doom whining about a team YOU predicted to be a 100-game loser back in January. What is the sense in that? Why bother punishing yourself by watching the games of a team that you don’t even like? It’s akin to watching a TV show you despise and then complaining about how terrible it is. There’s just no logic in it. No one will think any less of you for checking out fewer games in a crappy season. Consider it. It might improve your health.

Or you could be a bad fan like me.

The trick is to not attach so much of your ego to your team and to change your point of view. If all that matters is winning, that your team isn’t worth shit unless they win it all, then I’m afraid you’re going to have make due with a lot of disappointment. However, if you enjoy the game, and the winning that comes with and is hopefully the end result of it, then your season dramatically improves even when the team is garbage. Call me a Pollyana, but even in a blow-out loss, I can find something to be glad about (and usually in blow-out losses, that’s Len and Bob and their ramblings).

In addition to detaching the ego, it also serves you to get over yourself. I don’t think this team owes me anything. They don’t owe me a World Series championship. I would love for them to win one. But they’re not winning it for me, I don’t care what they say. They’re winning it for themselves and they should. When I pay my money to see a game, they don’t owe me a win. They owe me a good game. And so far, at least for me, they’ve come through on that.

Of course, if they happen to shirk on their end of the deal, I can still find a way to have a good time in spite.

Pisses you off doesn’t?

It pays to be a bad fan.

Cubs vs. Nationals 4/8/12 Recap

My family has been in and out on Easter celebrations since my grandmother died. Last year, sitting at home, watching the Cubs play the Dodgers, I thought what would be a better way to spend Easter than at a ballgame? So this year, I made that happen. Well, actually Dad made that happen since he’s the one who bought me the tickets for my birthday, but still, dreams come true and all that.

I am one of those people that likes to get to a game in time for batting practice because that’s when the most interesting things happen.

For example, Sunday I watched Tom Gorzelanny and another Nationals player finally give into a woman’s demand for a batting practice ball, but on one condition: she had to catch it in her beer. She did. Then Gorzelanny and the other Nats player encouraged her to chug what was left of the beer (not a whole lot; she was now wearing most of it). She did. Never did I realize Gorzelanny had such a wicked streak in him when he was with the Cubs.

The Nationals pitchers were working out during most of Cubs batting practice. Gorzelanny chatted with Ryan Dempster, James Russell, and Shawn Camp before getting into his long toss. His former teammate Paul Maholm spent quite a bit of time chatting with him. That was kind of nice to see.

For those hoping that Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol were feeling like shit over their two blown performances, they surely didn’t show it during BP. Marmol was having a good time messing with Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, and Rafael Dolis. Kerry Wood showed off some agility shagging balls, making a couple of nice running catches, and using James Russell as a way to stop by chest bumping his shoulder and nearly knocking him over.

The boys were definitely in high spirits during BP.

The game started with Jeff Samardzija giving up a double and I figured that was just how the game was going to go. My hope was that he could go at least six innings and keep things close. I did not anticipate him getting within one out of a complete game and throwing 97 MPH in the 9th. Those thoughts weren’t even remotely near my brain.

But it all happened.

I’m not fond of Samardzija. I think he comes across as an arrogant, egotistical jackass with poor hairstyle choices, but I can’t deny that I was cheering for him on Sunday. Impressive performance to be sure.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of Marmol coming in to get the last out, either. I wasn’t one of the fans booing him, but I admit to groaning. I’m glad he got the out and the save. Despite the boos, the crowd was actually pretty behind Marmol. The bleachers did not like some of the ball calls on the Jayson Werth at bat that resulted in a walk. I have no idea what Bob said about them, but the bleachers definitely thought the ump was wrong.

I’m hoping that this successful outing will do what it did for him back in spring training after a couple of bad outings and get the Marmol Coaster back on the tracks.

I saw three fantastic diving catches, however the one made by Soriano was the most impressive because it was Soriano. A couple of years ago, he wouldn’t have even attempted it. He’s feeling good this year. I think that makes a big difference in how he plays.

The aggressive baserunning is a lot of fun to watch in person. It’s something Cubs fans are used to seeing. So when you see Starlin Castro steal second and then take third on a wild pitch, particularly in a tight game, it gets the adrenaline going. It feels like you’re watching a real live team that could win.

A few other random points from the game:

-People in the left field bleachers did the wave when the game was 2-1. Apparently, they thought that since we got Theo from Boston, they should behave like Red Sox fans.

-I sat behind the most well-behaved group of teenage boys I’ve ever seen. Not once did they get out of line or cause any trouble.

-I didn’t have to yell at anyone during the National Anthem. In fact, I watched one guy start to go get beer and when he heard “God Bless America” start, he came back out and waited until both songs were done.

-I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to spill beer while wearing a Mark Grace jersey. That said, Gracie was up and down the stairs forty times with at least two beers and I’m pretty sure he never made it to the front row with both of them full.

-Several of the people sitting around me in the bleachers were eating fruit. I thought I missed the memo on something. It’s weird to be sitting there and suddenly you smell orange along with beer.

-It was a gorgeous day for a game.

-Pictures coming Friday.

Thank you Easter Bunny for such a great day.