Terrific column by Jeff Passan: Tracking down 6 fans who caught Cubs homer balls Monday

I’m teaching a sports journalism class at DePaul this fall. One of my constant themes is that the students should strive to do things out of the ordinary in their work.

On Thursday, I plan to show them Jeff Passan’s column off of the Cubs-Cardinals game Monday.

The Yahoo! Sports columnist strayed from the press box to find the six fans who caught the Cubs’ homer balls. It is a great example of going above and beyond.

As a result, there’s nothing ordinary about this column. Passan writes:

The Wrigley Field bleachers were built for $200,000 in 1937, and they’ve lived a good 78 years. They witnessed plenty of wins and a few more losses, millions of beers slugged in elation and about half that spilled in frustration. The ivy grew and the bums sunbathed and the bleachers lived the same existence every year, absorbing each moment, soaking up history. They had seen everything except the Chicago Cubs win a World Series.

Or at least they thought so until Monday night.

Every time Jeff Baum went up and down the stands to grab another beer, his legs burned. Six months ago, Baum booked a plane ticket here from Lubbock, Texas, to run the Chicago Marathon, which he finished in six hours, 29 minutes Sunday. He loves this city, and no place means more to him than Wrigley Field.

“This is the happiest spot in the world for me,” Baum said.

Baum is 46 and has been a Cubs fan since 1984. “I was the fat kid that every summer instead of being outside in the heat would be inside on the couch watching the Cubs on TV,” he said. When he got his license that year, he drove 10 hours to Houston to see the Cubs play the Astros, and he uses his days off as a school administrator in Lubbock to make at least one pilgrimage a year.

 

That Monday happened to be Game 3 of the National League Division Series – the first Cubs home playoff game in seven years – was kismet. Baum bought a ticket, donned a pair of 3D movie glasses because they looked like the Buddy Holly frames worn by Cubs manager Joe Maddon and settled into the front row of Section 305 unaware of the fortune that soon would fly his way.

In the second inning, rookie Kyle Schwarber lofted an 88-mph changeup from St. Louis Cardinals starter Michael Wacha toward left field, the same place he peppered balls during batting practice. Schwarber was one of four rookies in the Cubs’ precocious lineup that made the bleacher seats a prime destination, balls flying into it all summer. Here was another headed that way.

“And I’m in the right place,” Baum said.

The ball ricocheted off his left wrist and broke his watch. It landed in the basket just above the wall. As the rest of Wrigley broke into hysterics, Baum reached down, yanked out the ball and emerged with the best treasure imaginable. His phone blew up with text messages and his Facebook page with well-wishers and his mind with the sensation nobody in Wrigley on Monday could escape.

“It’s a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching feeling any time the Cubs get close and don’t make it,” Baum said. “I’ve felt from Day 1 this year they were going to be special.”

 

 

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