The Pastor’s Piece – July 7, 2024

The Pastor’s Piece


July 7, 2024

Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures in life that mean the most. If you’re a regular reader of this column you may have heard about my love for the Chicago Cubs as a child and how that carried over into adulthood and was passed down to our own children. But, during and after Covid, with the way our country’s politicians politicized everything, including baseball, the game became repugnant to me, and totally lost its appeal. So I abandoned it. Not intentionally, it just left me disillusioned and I had no interest in it. It’s been 9 years since I went to Wrigley Field.

But then, last week, with our daughter visiting from out of state, her one and only request was to see a Cubs game. So, we decided to make the trek down I-90, exit on Addison 

Street and drive east to the ballpark. We followed the parking signs which led us to a side street and then an alley, where a nice man guided us as we backed into a private garage one block from the stadium. Wrigely Field does not have public parking. It’s every man for himself.. The cost was 60 bucks. Nine years ago, it was 35. Inflation, I guess.

The landscape outside the stadium has changed quite a bit in the last nine years. The street has been transformed into a kids play area and corn toss arena, complete with Astro-turf. Once inside the stadium, the historic and famed Cub magic tends to grip your soul. The beauty of the baseball diamond, the manicured green grass, the ivy on the outfield wall, the memories of childhood, and the legends who played there – it all runs through your mind and accumulates in a kind of emotional nostalgia that’s difficult to describe unless you lived it. 

We navigated our way through a crowd of 41,129 people to find our seats in section 131, row 11. The people around us, though strangers when we got there, were our friends when we left. Everyone was happy and wanted to chat about the Cubs of today and the Cubs of old. We indulged ourselves in the memories. It was the 4th of July so those in charge had special events planned for us. But, before that, the first thing I saw after we found our seats was a guy sitting a couple rows down who had a t-shirt that said “MILF” on it. Just below that was a picture of the American flag and the words: “Man I Love Freedom.”   

About 20 minutes before game-time, a group of people I’d estimate at about 300, came out on the field. They crossed the outfield from right field to left and opened a gigantic flag. It covered the entire outfield from just off the infield grass, to the ivy on the wall in the outfield, to second base. Then we sang the National Anthem. Then we could hear helicopters approaching. There were four of them and they were from the 101st U.S. Army Combat Division. They buzzed the stadium to the roar of the crowd. It was a moving moment causing chills to run down your spine. And then the crowd spontaneously started chanting in unison: “USA USA USA USA”.   

On our way to the ballpark, someone in the car was reading aloud the Cubs batting averages and they were dismal. I wondered if they’d even get a hit that day. The last game we attended was in 2015 and Cole Hamels of the Phillies no-hit the Cubs. It was a heartbreaker, but a history-maker at the same time. True to my fears, the game started out as a real snoozer. Right away, the other team got a homerun and we fell behind 2-0. But then, in the bottom of the 4th things turned around and the Cubs took the lead and never looked back. Then a guy by the name of Ian Happ, a switch hitter stepped up to the plate and hit a three run homerun. That really got us going. The next time he came to bat, they had a different pitcher and he batted left – with the same result – another 3-run HR! Man, did that uncork the celebrating!

It was 83 degrees and cloudy and humid, and it seemed to us as perfect baseball weather. Periodically, the organist would blast out tunes and the crowd would sing along. Imagine 41,129 people singing in unison to the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Down on the Corner, (Out in the Street).” Or John Denver’s “Country Roads Take Me Home”. Later in the game, the crowd came to their feet to sing with full motions, The Village People’s “YMCA”. It was good, clean, American fun.

When the dust settled, the final score was 10-2. It was a game for the ages. I also noticed that there were very little cell-phone distractions. Nobody had their faces buried in their phones. They were there to watch a real live baseball game. Maybe you had to be there – but it was the best day ever! As Ernie Banks used to say: “It’s a beautiful day for baseball. Let’s play two!”

And finally, we know God likes the game because the Bible starts out: “In the (big inning) God created the heavens and the earth.” 

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).