Making the Trade: A Tale of Baseball Conversion
Every Cub fan has a story. Here’s mine.
When I’m not watching Cubs baseball (aka the off season), I am a fifth grade teacher. Love the job. But I’ve learned that by that age, changing the students’ behavior is hard work.
Trying to change your own actions and behavior is tough. Trying to change other people is sometimes impossible.
This brings me to my girlfriend of five years. Some transition, huh?
I’ll save the whole “it was fate that brought us together” story (but in all reality, it was). At least I met her completely randomly at a baseball game. Minor league game. Independent league. Wasn’t exactly love at first sight, either.
She and I grew up in towns about an hour apart, but both in St. Louis Cardinals country. I was the wacko who rooted feverishly for a perennial last place, season-in-the-toilet-by June team. She was an unabashed fan of the local nine, proudly going through high school and later, college, in Southern Missouri as yearly playoff appearances and World Series championships rolled through Busch Stadium.
Thankfully, I didn’t know her during those days, because we both have said that neither of us would have been attracted to the other back in our high school and college days. I can’t stand the big-headed Cardinal fans who claim to be The Best Fans in Baseball ™ and she wouldn’t have liked being around someone who couldn’t stand her kind.
She moved away for an internship after the random meeting, lost her passion for baseball (although she did spend her internship watching the Cardinals come back and win the Series from the Texas Rangers. Curse you, David Freese), and became more of a diehard hockey fan.
When she came back, we met up again. We went to a few hockey games in St. Louis. After being introduced to her parents and the boyfriend-girlfriend labels became attached to us, they told others that my only fault is that I was a Cubs fan. I had won her and her parents over.
Now, The Conversion. She never got to the point where she despised the Cardinals, but also showed me that her desire to go a pro games was dwindling. After watching a hockey game, baseball seemed dull and boring. When the Cubs were losing badly, even my motto was “Baseball doesn’t officially begin until the Stanley Cup has been raised.”
Her problem of not being interested in baseball was that I was interested in baseball. I’d spend my lazy summer evenings and weekends with her when I was off school, hauling my Apple TV with my MLB.TV subscription to catch the game.
She knew how important those games were to me and realized that for nine months of the year, I give so much to my teaching job that the few spare moments I have in the summer, I want to relax and enjoy myself with my summer passion.
During this time, she tried to pay attention. She learned a few names and pieces of knowledge about the Cubs. This Rizzo kid was looking good a 1B. That Soriano guy has a huge back swing and strikes out a ton. Why does Dempster wiggle his glove before he throws his pitch?
Because of me, she was learning about the Cubs and seeing them more and more, and watching the Cardinals less and less. We made a point to go to one Cubs/Cardinals game each year at Busch, but it was more of a celebration of our relationship — one of our first dates was a rivalry game.
The 2015 season changed things for us. Finally, a winning team. I was proud of this team. Joe Maddon and his quirks. Jake Arrieta became a stud. She fell in love Kris Bryant. Like, literally. She was kind of devastated when she found out Bryant was dating his high school sweetheart. His sharp blue eyes and strong jaw line were just too much. That last line was really weird for me to type.
My girlfriend showed me she had the potential to be a Cubs fan. She no longer wore her Cardinals shirts. She admitted she might be a Cubs fan stuck in the closet not wanting to come out fear of humiliation from her family. I never saw her make the turn to true fandom, and the NLDS series between the Cubs and Cardinals never got her to devote her energy to one team or the other.
It was not lost upon her though, my gut being punched at the end of the Mets sweep in the NLCS. She saw what it meant to me and the pain I felt.
Skip ahead to September of 2016. The Cubs have a large lead in the division and are within a few games of clinching. With a chance to win a playoff spot in St. Louis, I order nose bleed tickets at Busch. My better half buys herself a Brizzo Souvenir Co. shirt and a fitted Cubs cap. She’s made the change. Not because I pressured her to. Not because I tried to change her like I want to change my students’ behavior and actions. But because SHE wanted to.
Alas, the game we went to could not be the clincher, but we saw something almost near as great. Kyle Hendricks and a no-hit bid going to the bottom of the ninth in a game the Cubs had in hand. Jeremy Hazlebaker came off the bench and hit a pinch hit home run to break up the no-hitter. The nerves up until then in both of us were going nuts. I looked at her at one point and said, “What a time to become a Cubs fan.” Aroldis Chapman and his 105 MPH fastball came on and ended the game.
I will never forget that game for several reasons. Looking back, I saw the season in a nutshell: dominant pitching, nerves, possible history in the making.
When Bryzzo teamed up for the final out of the season, I was sitting in my bed, texting back and forth with my now Cubs-crazed girlfriend. I told her I didn’t want to talk because I wanted to hear Pat Hughes call the final out. She admitted she cried, as did I.
My emotions were boiling over. As much as I was celebrating the end of a drought, I was also rejoicing in having won over my girlfriend not only with my wonderful looks (haha!), but also with baseball.
Changing someone is difficult. Whether I was trying to change her or not, I succeeded. Just like the Chicago Cubs.
Chris Schomaker has a love-hate relationship with the cities of Chicago and St. Louis. He is a a fan of the Cubs in baseball and therefore hates the Cardinals, but loves the Blues in hockey, so by nature, despises the Blackhawks. He finally discovered what a championship is like last November. You can follow him on Twitter @cjschoe.