Goodbye, Kerry

After a few days of thinking about it, I feel like I can put my feelings and thoughts into a coherent form without it sounding like nothing but sappy, saccharine drivel. Nothing screws up my Friday like finding out one of my boys is retiring.

A few weeks after Kerry Wood threw his twenty strikeout game against the Astros, I graduated high school. That was 14 years ago and in that time, the two of us have changed quite a bit. He went from starter to closer to setup man. He went from young phenom to a guy that fans called broken down and useless. He went from a chubby teenager to a grown man, a husband and daddy at that. I went from college student to dropout to student to dropout to student to dropout. I worked in retail, banking, and professional wrestling. I went from only seeing one game ever at Wrigley Field to making a point of going to the opening and closing homestands. I went from fat, single girl to…well, still fat and single, but a little more of a woman.

Really, the only thing Kerry Wood and I have in common is the number of times we’ve ended up on the DL.

But it still feels like we’ve grown up together in a sense, which is a stupid thought, but the only way I can explain it without mucking up the works. So his retirement strikes a chord with me. Just a couple of weeks before, at Casino Night, I told Harry that Kerry Wood was my guy. That so long as he played, then I wasn’t old. That night, just a couple of day or two after he chucked his glove into the stands after a frustrating outing, he was one of the last players to leave Casino Night, talking and taking pictures, a smile on his face. It was encouraging to me that despite the struggles he was having this season, he was still smiling.

Now maybe I know why.

As much as it saddens me to see Kerry Wood retire, his final appearance on the mound couldn’t have been happened any better. Ending his career as it began, with a strikeout, was beautiful. His son Justin running from the dugout to hug him as he left the mound brought tears to my eyes. His press conference the next day, all of his thank you’s, was another example of class (I got the tears again when he thanked Lester Strode because Lester is so often overlooked). I’d always hoped that when Kerry Wood left (and therefore left me to be officially old in baseball years) that it would be on a high note.

Really, I don’t think this note could have been any higher.

I wrote last week that Kerry Wood was veteran and a pro and that he would find a way to help his team. When I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking about retirement. But I guess he was. I guess this was the way he felt he could help them best.

I’ll miss you in pinstripes, Kerry. But I’m glad you’re a Cubs lifer.

I guess that’s one more thing we’ve got in common.

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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.

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.

Cubs Convention 2012

As a birthday present from my friend Becca (spending money a Christmas/birthday present from my mom), the two of us went to Cubs Con this past weekend. Now, I’ve been to conventions before (I did Wizard World in 2005 and 2006 and DragonCon in 2007 and 2008), but I’ve never been to a Cubs Con.

We ended up doing just autographs and pictures. No panels (not that there weren’t some that I didn’t think about going to).  And we missed the opening ceremony (but did hear the huge ovation for Kerry Wood) because Becca’s plane was late and by the time we got on the Kennedy, everyone else was on it, too. On one hand, I feel like we managed to do quite a bit. On the other hand, I feel like we missed out on a lot.

But here’s a quick rundown of things we did do.

-Friday night, after checking in, registering, eating, and wandering around the vendors, we hit up Kitty O’Sheas for the Tweetup. There we found our Cubs Con sherpa, Harry, almost immediately. Birthday wishes were exchanged (his birthday was Friday) and he presented me with a gift that only a true Cubs fan could appreciate: a Carlos Silva autographed ball. I feel bad that I didn’t get him anything. I’ll be sure to get him something next year. Oh yes. I will.

-Also great meeting Daniel, Jen, and Vince, and giving a quick hello to a couple of others. Sorry we didn’t get to hang out longer and meet more people.

-On the way back to our hotel room we were brushed aside by security so David DeJesus and his wife could hurry by.

-Saturday morning we got in the cluster known as Reed Johnson’s line. It was a bit of a mess and there was possibly a mutiny being staged behind us, but we made it out alive with Reed’s autograph. Nice guy. I felt his shirt matched his goatee.

-Next, Becca got her picture taken with Geovany Soto. He was late to the photo op. I said it was because he was doing his hair; gel can be a difficult medium to work with. Considering how perfect it looked in Becca’s picture, I’d say I was right.

-We deviated from the Saturday plan by creating a line for the James Russell photo op (I also defended his honor at one point). His signing was on our Sunday agenda, but we saw an opportunity and we took it and I’ve got the K-Mart Photo Studio picture to prove it. We also got bonus time with him since the flash wasn’t working. He was very sweet, even if his plaid did clash with my shirt (he made up for it with really kickin’ cowboy boots).

-We hooked up with Harry and lined up for the Blake DeWitt signing. Sticking to the less popular players was actually a decent strategy as the lines were short. Harry left and came back and didn’t miss much. DeWitt needs to stop letting his mom cut his hair, but other than that, he was quite nice. I’m bummed that they made him change his number (so DeJesus could have #9). Doesn’t seem fair. Also, he had cold hands.

-On the roll that we were, we jumped in the line for Tony Campana and it was a good thing we did because a lot of people showed up for that signing. When I got up there, I asked how his hand was holding up. He said it was okay, then looked behind me and said that he thought it might be sore by the end. So cute and wee. He really is quite pocket-sized.

-While waiting on Campana, we saw both Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson walk by. Castro had an entourage and Brett Jackson apparently just came down from Appalachia where he was hanging out with Grizzly Adams.

-It was then that we parted ways with Harry for a bit as he wanted to get Soto’s autograph and Becca wanted Jeff Samardzija’s. He was nice enough, though I question his hair choices. It wasn’t quite as scary up close, but still I think he should look into a new style.

-Sunday morning, we lined up for James Russell’s signing as was originally planned. Everyone else signed my calendar, but I’d gone to the trouble of bringing Russell’s baseball card and I wanted it signed. So after watching an ADORABLE little boy (he must have been about two) with a Toy Story backpack get HIS baseball card signed and put away in his backpack (OMGSOCUTE), I got my card signed.

-Our last event of the con was a photo op with Blake DeWitt. Again, he was very nice and Becca has the Awkward Family Photo for posterity. I told her that she needs to frame it and put it on her desk at work to see how long it takes for anyone to ask her about it. And if they do, tell them that we’re family from Missouri. Trust me. That would be hilarious.

And so ended our Cubs-filled, fun-filled weekend.

Con pictures on Friday! Stay tuned!