Long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans had a promising Opening Day today even though their team ended up falling to the Milwaukie Brewers 4-3 in eleven innings. The good feelings in Chicago are because, as ESPN announcer Brent Musburger said, "A star is born amid the gritty winds off Lake Michigan".
The Cubs' much-hyped free-agent acquisition from Japan, right-fielder Kosuke Fukudome, has been touted as a combination of Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, but possibly not quite as good as either. But if opening day has any meaning at all, even if only symbolic, then he may just end up being all that the Cubs could have dreamed.
On his first at-bat at Wrigley Field, Fukodome lined the first pitch he saw over centerfielder Tony Gwynn's head and off the wall for a double. Not a bad beginning, to be sure.
But the truly magical moment came later, in the bottom of the ninth, with two men on, the Cubs down 3-0, and the Brewers new closer, Eric Gagne, beginning to struggle.
Up stepped Fukodome and the crowd went wild. Fans wearing Samurai headbands and kimonos, holding up signs with Japanese writing on them, screamed, "FukuDoME! FukuDoME".
And then he hit it, and there was no doubt it was gone. The ball jumped off his bat and carried out in deep right-center, sailing through the sideways-blowing wind without a problem.
Crossing home plate to tie the game, Fukudome gave a slight smile as his teammates mobbed him. Waving his cap at the adoring crowd duing his first American curtain call, again there was no doubt: Cub-crazies have a new hero to pin their hopes on.