In the span of a few short months, Bryan LaHair went from Japan-bound ballplayer to Cubs starting first baseman, to National League All-Star, to Cubs starting right-fielder, to bench.
But on the final day of the season, the left-handed slugger rose up for a second-inning home run and then a bases-loaded, two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth as the Cubs ended their season with a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros.
The Cubs finished with 101 losses, two short of the franchise record (1962 and '66).
Shortstop Starlin Castro went hitless with a walk but became the first shortstop in franchise history to play in all 162 games - first infielder to do it since Ron Santo in 1968.
For LaHair, the finish to his season marked a more personal victory than a professional one.
``I was pretty psyched up about today's game,'' said LaHair, whose homer gave the Cubs their first run since Sunday in Arizona. ``I talked to my grandma last night, and I wanted to get one more for her, and luckily I did.''
LaHair's grandmother, who's battling health problems, was watching the game on TV in Massachusetts, he said - and watched him keep his promise with his first home run since Aug. 22.
``She's not doing too well,'' he said. ``If this is the last one she sees me play, it's a good one.''
LaHair finished with 16 home runs and 40 RBIs but only two and 10 since his unlikely, feel-good-story selection to the All-Star team.
``I'm just taking the positives out of this year,'' he said, ``I'm not taking any negatives out of it. Obviously, there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm going to get to work hard, and hopefully I'll have a better formula next year.''
With Anthony Rizzo firmly installed at first base for next year, and no guarantees he fits in the Cubs' ultimate outfield plans, LaHair knows his 2013 plans are even less certain than going into the 2012 offseason - when he considered offers from Japanese clubs.
``The Cubs are where I want to be,'' he said. ``But if there are other opportunities out there that are better for me, then we'll decide [at that point].''