Fans pack bags for Cincinnati, Florida
September 25, 2007
BY CAROL SLEZAK firstname.lastname@example.org
When Margaret and Steve Farr went on the Cincinnati Reds' Web site in early June to purchase tickets for this weekend's Cubs series, they weren't expecting much.
''It was right after the fight [between pitcher Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett], and I thought, 'These guys aren't going anywhere,' but we were looking forward to the trip anyway,'' Steve said.
That perspective has changed just a bit. In fact, as the Cubs open a three-game set in Miami tonight, followed by a three-game series to close out the regular season in Cincinnati, expect both parks to sound a lot like Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are closing in on clinching their first postseason berth since 2003, and no matter where that happens, it's safe to say they'll be playing in front of thousands of their own fans. And we're not just talking about transplanted Chicagoans or remote fans cultivated by games on WGN. We're talking about buying tickets, perhaps plane reservations and hotel accommodations. The whole package.
The Farrs, teachers at Bogan High School, plan to make the four-hour-or-so drive to Cincinnati on Saturday morning. They booked a room weeks ago at the Millennium Hotel without difficulty. They are meeting another couple, friends from Champaign, Ill., in Cincinnati.
''My friend thinks the crowd will be 50/50 Cubs-Reds,'' Steve said. ''He's hoping the Cubs clinch before the weekend because he doesn't know if he can handle the pressure.
''But I hope they clinch when we're there.''
Many Cubs fans travel to games regardless of playoff implications.
Tonight in Miami, Jim and Dawn DeBoer might be leading the chorus of ''Go Cubs Go.'' The DeBoers, who live in Cedar Lake, Ind., about 45 miles outside of Chicago, flew to Florida on Sunday with four tickets in hand, purchased through the Marlins' Web site three weeks ago. They know the Cubs can't clinch the division title tonight, but that's OK with them.
''We'd be going whether they were [in a pennant race] or not,'' Dawn said. ''We were planning on visiting our son [who lives near Ft. Lauderdale], and we knew the Cubs would be playing, so we got tickets for ourselves, our son and his wife. We've been fans forever, and I'm the type who will watch them whether they're winning or losing.''
Despite Miami's distance from Chicago, the DeBoers expect to see many kindred spirits in the stands tonight, and not only because the Marlins have trouble drawing fans of their own.
''Cubs fans are crazy enough to come down here,'' Dawn said.
''And Cubs fans are everywhere. My son has met two huge Cubs fans from Iowa who live in his apartment complex.''
Jim Pieschel of Rockford, Ill., is heading up a group of 40 people who are busing down to Cincinnati with tickets for all three games.
''I remember when I got the tickets [through the Reds' group sales office, in February],'' Pieschel said. ''It was after the Cubs had [acquired Ted Lilly and Alfonso Soriano and others], and I thought, 'This is going to work out perfect. We could see something special.'''
Pieschel, a 38-year-old commercial banker, expects that Great American Ballpark will be teeming with Cubs fans. It was in 2004, the last time he brought a bus load of fans to watch a contending Cubs team play there.
''That [mid-September] weekend, it was about 30 percent Cubs fans,'' he said. ''That was before the Cubs choked [away the division].''
That's not going to happen this year, is it? Naw, no way.
Impossible. But just in case ...
''Selfishly, I want them to clinch in Florida,'' Pieschel said.
''The Reds have had the Cubs' number all year.''