Thursday, July 8, 2010

Major League Dreaming

Day after day, game after game, year after year, a minor league baseball player travels from one city to another staying in bad hotels and eating average food in a cramped clubhouse.

Minor leaguers ride buses and play in front of small crowds drawn in by unusual promotions and strange mascots making appearances.

The road to the big leagues is a long, tiring road with few rewards along the way. But this is a road that all baseball players have to travel to live the dream of becoming a major league baseball player.

On Wednesday night, the Kane County Cougars and Peoria Chiefs traded in their usual minor league environment for one of baseball’s cathedrals, Wrigley Field.
As a part of the third annual Road to Wrigley game, the Cougars and Chiefs were given the opportunity to play under major league lights at one of baseball’s oldest and most historic ballparks.

Wednesday’s game gave each team’s players, coaches, staff, and even writers a brief escape from minor league life, and a taste of life in the big leagues.

The teams went through their normal pregame routines, but spent a little time before that exploring the ballpark. Many players took a personal tour of Wrigley, some players even brought their own cameras. One thing everybody had in common was a feeling of awe and excitement.

“Words can’t really describe how it feels to play in a place with so much history and tradition,” said Kane County SS Mike Gilmartin, who finished a home run away from the cycle during his night at Wrigley. “So many great ballplayers have played here. Just to be on the field that they have played and be in the same batter’s box that they’ve been in, it’s pretty breathtaking.”

The Chiefs defeated the Cougars, 5-2, as Naperville (IL) native Ian Krol was handed the loss. Krol, who is one of Oakland’s top prospects, grew up a lifelong Cub fan, so he was thrilled to be given the chance to pitch at Wrigley Field.

“It was pretty exciting for me,” said Krol. “I did my rituals before the game. I came down here early enough to soak it all in so I didn’t have to rush myself. It was just unbelievable.”

With the game in the books, the each team will return to the minor league life. After getting a brief taste of the major league dream for one night, each player returns to small ballparks, average food, and Birdzerk appearances, but not without the motivation of future games at Wrigley Field.

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