Ryne Sandberg will be back at Wrigley Field tonight.
My first baseball glove was a Rawlings that had Ryne Sandberg's facsimile autograph emblazoned right below the pocket. From the ages of 6 to 9 it served me well, scooping up countless low throws to first base. Eventually the time came to get another mitt and the once-indispensable glove was relegated to lesser role in my life.
The same thing kind of happened to the real Sandberg. For 14 years, Ryno played a mean second base, hit 282 homers and won an MVP. But eventually the time came for him to retire and take a lesser role in the organization -- as manager of the Cubs' Class A-affiliate Peoria Chiefs. Tonight he makes his triumphant? return to the Friendly Confines and will be setting up shop in the third base coach's box when Peoria faces Kane County in the first-ever minor league game at Wrigley Field.
Then I came to the realization that it's not about the game on the field tonight. It's about a moment in time where Sandberg can step back onto the field and receive a warm ovation. It's about the players who will never reach the majors, but for one night will get to fulfill their childhood dreams. And most importantly, it's about stepping back and enjoying baseball at arms length, without getting too caught up in blind fandom.
So often as sports fans we get bogged down in the win-at-all-costs-or-refuse-to-enjoy-the-game-at-all mentality. Tonight's game affords us the chance to see a game played at a historic venue by players that aren't multi-millionaires. A chance to go to a baseball game for the sake of just going to a baseball game. And the minor -league traditions like dizzy bat races and T-shirt tosses just add to the uniqueness of the night. Considering the recent ugliness that has surrounded the Cheifs, tonight takes on an even greater importance in the sense that it can serve as a strong reminder what we love about the game.