06/06/2003 5:27 PM ET
Sweepstakes winner isn't dreaming
CHICAGO -- This is the wakeup call Ray Walsh has been waiting for.
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
A night manager at a Hilton in West Lafayette, Ind., Walsh learned that he had won the Hottest Tickets Sweepstakes contest that drew about 55,000 entries Thursday on MLB.com. He and his wife Melinda and their two children, Alex and Jasmine, will be sitting behind home plate Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field to watch the first Yankees-Cubs series there since 1938 -- and a matchup featuring Roger Clemens in search of victory No. 300 and strikeout No. 4000 against Cubs sensation Kerry Wood.
"I still don't honestly believe it," Walsh said Friday. "You know when you're having a really good dream, and then in the middle of the dream you start hearing that funny sound, and it gets louder and louder, and then you realize it's your alarm clock? I keep hearing that funny sound and I'm waiting to hear that alarm clock. It's just too cool, man.
"It's kind of a win-win situation being at this game, isn't it? To be perfectly honest, as much as you'd like to be able to look back and say I was there when Roger Clemens pitched his 300th victory, I've got to go for the Cubs winning and let Roger get his 300th somewhere else. I hope Kerry has his control and just baffles them with his slider."
The last time Walsh was at Wrigley was a doubleheader against the Braves in 1997.
"I was fortunate enough to be there for those games with Alex, and we got to sing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' twice along with Harry Caray that day," Walsh said. "Of course, we lost Harry that next offseason. I just count myself lucky that I got to sing with Harry a couple times before we lost him.
"I told my wife, once you set foot in Wrigley, as you walk through the breezeway and see that field, you'll immediately understand my passion for this team and this game. When I watch the game at home, I'm at the game. She's come around a little bit. Now she'll sit and watch with me. This will help her understand where I'm coming from."
The National League Central is playing the American League East in this year's Interleague Play rotation, making possible a meeting between the Yankees and Cubs here that most fans have not seen in their lifetime. The series has been sold out for a long time, and the gradual buzz that has built over the hottest ticket of the regular season prompted MLB.com to offer this contest. Walsh entered after he came home from his night shift, and when he returned to the hotel that night, he says, his colleagues "were all excited for me. There was a little jealousy, but they were mostly thrilled for me."
Walsh said being a Cubs fan has always been a natural match. "I moved around a lot when I was younger, and I remember back in sixth grade when I lived in Montreal, it was always real tough when the Expos played the Cubs," he said. "A major part of my life also was in Michigan. Even as a kid, I can remember not being a big fan of the American League. They were kind of like the closest National League team, so you just gravitated toward the Cubs. I don't know what it was. I just always liked the way the Cubs played ball. Even when they were losing, they were just fun to watch. It's just a feeling I always had."
The Walsh gang is happy to see Sammy Sosa in this series. He was suspended for eight games because of the corked-bat incident, but it is pending appeal. Walsh said he never had a doubt that their favorite Cub slugger would be here for this series, and typical of most Cubs fans he still has a very favorable opinion.
"Personally, thinking about it completely objectively, I really honestly believe that Sammy made a mistake. I don't believe he did that on purpose at all. I was getting up for work and my wife mentioned it to me. My first instinct, before I heard his explanation, was, 'I wonder if that was just a BP bat, something he could show off for the fans.' He loves the game too much to mess with it. Deep in my heart, I believe it was simply a mistake."
Sosa will be there, and the Walshes will be there. Life can be wonderful sometimes. It might even be the Cubs year this time around.
"If it's not, it's real darn close." Walsh said. "It would be sacrilegious to say, 'No, we need a couple more years to rebuild.' It's always the Cubs' year until it isn't. It's the first week of June, and we're in first place, and we're in a series against the Yankees. What could possibly be better? Not even as a Cubs fan, but just as a baseball fan. How could you not love this?"
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.