I grew up a baseball fan, but used to laugh when my boyfriend, Roy would check the news at night to see if the Cubs won, since it seemed to me all they did was lose. But having grown up in St. Charles, IL, he was a Cubs Fan through and through.
Then we got married and moved to Phoenix, AZ. With WGN televising the Cubs and Spring Training at Hohokam Park as our main source of entertainment, this baseball fan became a Cubs fan. It helped that the year was 1984, a great first year to watch the Cubs win and win and win. Ryne Sandberg and Bobby Dernier as the Daily Double, Rick Sutcliffe on the mound, Jody Davis behind the plate. How we loved to watch these guys play. But then came October when I was introduced to the pain of the loss when everything had been set up for a “sure” win. Oh it hurt with those losses against San Diego and Steve Garvey, who we named the Cubs killer. Loss or not, I was already too far-gone with Cubs Fever, a condition I carry to this day.
Cubs baseball is a part of our family culture, with tradition and stories and even lore that tie us together including our son, Dylan who is deafblind. I’d like to share some of that family Cubs Lore and how we helped Dylan become part of it.
In the Spring of 1987, we were at Hohokam and Roy took a picture of me with the Cubby Bear mascot. He says this is the first day he saw me smile again, after our baby had died in October of 1986. While he worked, I continued to go to Spring Training games. The Cubs helped me heal.
Then Tyler was born. 3 months old at his first Cubs game at Dodger stadium. 9 months old taking off down our street in his Cubs jacket, Tyler grew up to live and breathe baseball, spending every moment, playing catch with his grandpa, throwing a ball against a backstop and catching it wherever it went, landing in the dirt with amazing catches like the best of the Cubs. With a March birthday, we celebrated at Spring Training games. I'll never forget his sister, Kayla, 5 years old on the grass at Tucson Electric Park, entertaining the Cubs fans, as she kept a hula hoop going while doing the Macarena.
Then there was 1998, Kerry Wood - Kayla’s first celebrity crush - as he threw 20 strikeouts, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and the home run race, Tyler watching every game. And this is where story becomes lore. We were at Bank One Ballpark watching the Cubs play the Diamondbacks on July 27, 1998. Sammy was up to bat in the 8th after already hitting a homer in the 6th. Next thing you know, there was the ball coming right at us, 10-year old Tyler is leaning over the rail his gloved hand stretched out to catch that ball. It’s coming, it’s coming, he’s almost got it. No, it hits his glove and drops down into the box below us. No he didn't get to give the ball back to Sammy in exchange for an autographed bat, but Tyler can still say that Sammy Sosa’s first grand slam hit the tip of his glove.
Family reunions in Chicago, opportunities to watch the Cubs at Wrigley, to experience the Friendly Confines, and the joy of being there, but mostly we get to see the Cubs live when they play the Diamondbacks. In fact one day the marketing people from Chase Field called and asked what brought me out to the games. Funny, when I told, him, “We go to Chase Field when the Cubs come to town.” they didn’t call me anymore.
Then we are watching the Cubs at the Diamondbacks in the Division Series in 2007. Tyler and Kayla have their faces painted blue, Tyler is standing on the slanted rail on the stadium stairs, hat on backwards, cheering, trying to get the Cubs fans to stand and rally, Let's Go Cubbies. A sad loss, but great memories.
We miss WGN airing the games, but this year I got a MLB subscription for Mother’s Day. Roy and I’ve been able to follow every game here in Arizona, while Tyler who is now 28 follows in Texas. Kayla joins us when she’s in town. Win or lose, on TV, the radio, or stadiums around the country, every game allows time for us to chat, to connect, and to continue to weave the threads that bind us together.
But what about Dylan? How does a boy who has no hearing, who sees best arm’s distance away, who doesn’t tolerate the heat, and can’t play baseball for fear a ball to the eye would take what vision he does have, end up a baseball fan?
Yes, He's been to indoor stadiums. Yes, he's been to Little League Games. Yes, the games are on our TV at home. He has an idea of what the field is like, but he doesn't have the vision to follow the detail of the game. Last year, we went to a Sports Bar to watch the Wild Card game, thinking one of us would need to leave with Dylan, not expecting him to enjoy the full game. But we discovered, with a Big Screen TV, and the excitement of the people around him, Dylan had a blast. That was fun, but he didn't know it was The Cubs, our team, our history. We wanted to know how to make him really a part of it.
So this year, we've been back in the Sports Bar for Post-season Baseball. (Thanks to Colt's Taste of Texas for being so accommodating to meet Dylan's needs, so we could enjoy the games as a family.) Imagine Dylan sitting next to me, his hand is on mine as we draw the Cubs logo, a baseball, a baseball bat, a glove, a baseball diamond, faces of Mom, Dad, and Dylan. He takes my hand and points to which item he wants to talk about, as he learns about the game and The Cubs. His hand rests on mine, feeling and guiding the signs as we say again and again, "Go C-U-B-S go. Go C-U-B-S go," as he watches the action on the big screen TV right in front of us. At last it connects, we are not just watching movement on the TV, we are watching The Cubs.
It's Oct. 22, 2016, the top of the 9th with one out and a runner on first. Dylan's hand is on mine as I narrate the play. "Ready. Throw. Hit. Catch. Throw. Catch. Throw. Catch. 2-out (Double-Play) I exhale, I pause, no challenge, we did it, we won, we’re going to the World Series. I teach Dylan the best sign, "C-U-B-S win, C-U-B-S win!"