Chicago’s Other #34

It seems like almost a decade ago and unfortunately it really was almost a decade ago. A young fireballer with all of the confidence and determination it takes to strike out 20 major league batters in one game. It was arguably the most dominant regular season game pitched in the modern era according to multiple outlets. A star was born and Chicago braced for a new legend.

Five years later after a bought with injuries, the young Texan lead his team to their first postseason series win in 95 years by winning the NLDS Most Valuable Player award. Though his performances were erratic in the NLCS, he hit one of the most dramatic homeruns Wrigley Field ever saw. He was the heart and soul of this team and the anointed leader. He was rewarded with a 3 year/$30 million contract for his efforts. Three seasons have gone by and none of the promise from ’98 or ’03 has been fulfilled. Mechanical problems have lead to multiple arm and shoulder calamities that have made it all but impossible to pitch.

There is a laundry list of young pitchers with promise who never amounted to much. They were eventually discarded, banished to the minors, and eventually forgotten about forever. Some hang on for awhile but never catch on and others become an enigma wrapped in a riddle while not signing autographs on a duck. Nevertheless, this group of professional athletes never reaches the “city icon” status forever toiling in the world of “remember so and so?” Fans either forget you or hate you, they never love you, except in the case of Chicago’s other #34.

For 9 years he has left it out on the field as often as he could. This man has been picked at, poked, prodded and hacked more than any other human his age and he has kept coming back for more. He refused to quit, took a huge pay cut and went back out there to do what you are supposed to do as a professional athlete….try. I know this is a confusing topic for certain professional athletes, but not for this Kid. He always gave 120% so when it came down to it four weeks ago, he was going to try one more time. He wanted to throw one more time so it would flare up and the Doctors would not miss anything. He could not bear the thought of one more surgery and was not sure if he would go through with one. He would have surgery to save his arm if that was needed, but that was for the rest of his life, not just so he could pitch again.

So the mature man with the Kid’s heart strolled out to play catch one last time, but something funny happened….nothing hurt when he was done. Nothing hurt when he woke up the next morning and nothing hurt when he went out and did it again. So he kept doing it and nothing hurt. There is absolutely no explanation for this, it is just happening.

So as he reports to A ball this week to play for Ryne Sandberg, wouldn’t it be fitting that the Kid who could not stay healthy all of a sudden got healthy out of nowhere, especially when everyone else, including himself, thought he was done?

The Kid who got hurt time after time after time and when it was most expected has finally been healed when, in fact, it was least expected. Professional baseball, like life, is not always fair and definitely hard to predict.

While at his celebrity bowling outing last weekend, the crowd was abuzz with the Cubs and with his potential rehab assignment. Chicago celebrities and athletes spent this night trying to throw strikes and raise money for Derrek Lee’s Project 3000. The media had swarmed the place and a few lucky civilians got to rub elbows with their heroes. The night was about Bowling and raising money for a great cause, and it appeared to be a huge success.

However, I will tell you one thing, with his back up against the wall and hope all but lost, there was one person in that Bowling Alley who spent the evening thinking of an entirely different type of strike. Go get ‘em man!!!

Feel free to contact me at brian@chicagocubsonline.com and until next time…

Stay Classy Kerry!!

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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