Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Youth is wasted on the young. And for a period in the late 90s, I wasted part of my youth as a rabid Cubs fan. Instead of spending the summers watching MTV’s Beach House like any normal teenager, I had a compulsive need to watch every Cubs game broadcast on WGN. Harry Caray and Steve Stone became my deliciously weird guides on my journey of Cub-fandom.

How does a California girl become a fan of one of the worst teams in baseball? It was partly my inherent masochism, but a trip to Wrigley Field in the summer of 1996 sealed the deal.

Wrigley is a magical place, surrounded by history and smell of beer and bratwurst. I would highly encourage any baseball fan to make the trek before it’s gone forever.

Aside from the historic ballpark, the Cubs have Bill Murray, the seventh inning stretch, the fans throw it back—hell—they even have a curse involving a goat. What’s not to love?

I happened to visit during a softball tournament when the Cubs were facing off against the Dodgers.

I sat in the stands with my parents before the game when someone from the front office approached us asking if we were Cubs fans. “Why, yes,” I lied. My first little league team had been the Cubs and I knew of Mark Grace, so I felt that was enough to qualify me as a fan.

This affirmative answer qualified me for the “Fan Take the Field” experience and I naturally chose to take the field with my new Cubs favorite Mark Grace. After all, he was a first baseman just like me.

What I did not know was that Grace lets you throw the ball around the horn, and it was truly an experience I would never forget. I was rifling the ball to Shawon Dunston, Ryne Sandberg, and Kevin Orie and they were catching it.

I met Mark Grace again when the Cubs played at Dodger Stadium and he was nice enough to sign a picture of me on the field with him. It was then that I turned—I was now a Cubs fan for life. Or so I thought. My infatuation with the team ended as soon as Grace was traded away at the end of his career.

This week the Yanks are engaged in inter league play with a three game series against the Cubs. And though the players have changed, the results have stayed remarkably the same—at 15-27 the Cubs are dead last in their division.

But this match up made me curious to check in on my adolescent heroes. Here’s what I found:

Ryne has had one of the more successful post-career runs. He’s now the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Glanville is an MLB analyst for ESPN and contributes written articles to the NY Times, and ESPN The Magazine.

After finishing his career in San Francisco, Dunston is now special assistant to the Giants and is still rocking a bad ass ‘stache.

I had forgotten that Sosa even existed until last week when the Phillies celebrated the Phanatic’s birthday by having a Clammy Sosa mascot eat an umpire. (It appears the Cubs organization has forgotten about him too.)

“Whatever happened to that guy?”, I asked. The only thing I could remember about Sosa post-retirement was his 2009 appearance where—after trying to pull off his best Michael Jackson impersonation—he appeared to have a MUCH lighter complexion. (He says it was due to skin creams.)

He now heads a company that is developing technology for needle-less drug injections. I kid you not.

Mark Grace 

My once favorite player retired in 2003 as an Arizona Diamondback. He became an announcer for Fox Saturday Baseball and was signed as a commentator for Fox Sports, but took a leave of absence after the 2012 season. Shortly thereafter, Grace was arrested twice for driving under the influence and found himself juggling time between being an inmate in an Arizona desert tent prison and as a hitting instructor with the Diamondbacks organization.

I remember as a youngster writing Grace a fan letter thanking him for signing my picture and begging him not to star in any Pert Plus commercials a la Mike Piazza.

Looking back, I probably should have just told him to lay off the sauce.

--Alexis Garcia, BYB's "Eye on MLB" Columnist
Twitter:  @heylexyg

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