There are few milestones in a lifetime that are moments you’ll remember forever. Graduating college, getting married, the birth of a child; all of these are moments that qualify on that list. For the baseball fan, the list includes some entirely different types of moments. This last Sunday, I crossed off two.
As many who know me, read my work, or follow me on Twitter (@Ryan_Davis17) may know, I have a three-year-old daughter named Gracie. Without going all “proud dad” on you, I’ll say that Gracie is a sweet little girl, and takes after her old man in many ways. While she enjoys the typical girlie stuff like playing dress-up, Disney princesses, and the color pink, she also has developed a fondness for the Hulk, the Ninja Turtles, the Blackhawks, and the Cubbies.
None of this was forced on her, but all of it was at least introduced at some point by me. Specifically, the Cubs. Practically the first song that she learned was Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and it was hysterical the way that her toddler-voice accidentally sang “root root root for the Cubbies, if they don’t win it’s the same” as if she knew why that’s funny.
So last Sunday, May 3rd, 2015, was the big day: Gracie’s first Cubs game. We got up early, as the trip to Chicago is around three hours from home (depending on traffic). We got her in her favorite Clark the Cub shirt (yes, children do like him and no, the Cubs having a mascot doesn’t negatively impact your fandom) and hit the road around 7:45am. After a few stops and a trip on the Addison 152 bus, I point and ask Gracie if she can see out her window.
There it was: Wrigley Field. Not just for the zillionth time for me, but through the eyes of a little Cubs fan for the very first time. She couldn’t have been happier, which meant I couldn’t have been happier. After going through the gate and stopping for a wristband that would allow me to check another item off my list later, we went and got a certificate with her name on it to commemorate her special day. And then, a pink Cubs hat ($25!) that she absolutely had to have and I absolutely had to buy her.
Just about every Cubs employee stopped to smile and say hello and overload her with stickers, whether it was the vendors or the gameday staff. The ushers, or the senior citizen patrol, were grumpy and unwelcoming as always, but overall the Cubs obviously put a lot of effort into embracing the next generation of fans. By the time we got to our seats with some hot dogs, she was impatiently ready for the game to begin.
And then it did, and things got even better. She was wowed by the video on the jumbotron prior to the game starting. She booed Ryan Braun, and said “he’s the bad guy!” She clapped along with the fans, and chanted “Let’s go Cubbies!” She was as engaged in the game as any three-year-old kid could expect to be, which was a concern of mine. I had brought her Kindle for her to play games on if she lost interest, but it was never needed.
We did our share of walking around, making our way to the patio in the upper deck for a little ice cream and to see some of the special sites. We were back in our seats for her favorite song, which she sang as loud as possible. Eventually, the game came to an end and she asked if it was time to sing her second favorite song, “Go Cubs Go.” Alas, I told her, the Cubbies had lost. We were not allowed to sing that day.
Before leaving, I got to cross off that next item; Gracie got to run the bases, which meant I got to go down on the field at Wrigley. After about 20 minutes of standing in line (every kid’s favorite activity!) we were ushered in through the door in the right field corner. We walked over the opposing team bullpen mound and down to first base, where (as I was secretly hoping) Gracie decided that she wanted daddy to run the bases with her.
I have to admit, I barely had time to contemplate what I was doing. I would have thought I’d be overwhelmed with the thought of running the bases at Wrigley Field, but I didn’t even think about it until afterwards. The entire moment was engulfed by the joy I saw on the newest Cubs fan’s face. When we finished, she stopped and stood on home plate, as if to say “I did it, dad!” After a few pictures, it was time to go. And after a long day, I was pretty shocked at the whines and groans coming from my exhausted little girl, just coming to the realization that our day of fun was over.
Taking your child to their first game is a treasured experience that I hope everyone gets to have at some point. I’d been dreaming about that day since the moment the doctor told me I was going to be a daddy, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
When Gracie was getting into bed that night, the last thing she said to me was “Daddy? The Cubbies didn’t win, did they?” No, but that’s okay. I didn’t care one bit. It didn’t matter that day.