On Wednesday night, I had the distinct privilege of celebrating my brother's 29th birthday by taking him to the Cubs game.
From 1997 on, I have faithfully followed the Cubs, and this particular brother has been the closest thing I've had to a fellow Cubs fan. While baseball is not his favorite sport, he knows and understands the game, and can appreciate the nuances. Most importantly, he's not a Giants fan.
Living in California as a Cubs fan, I've long since learned to block out the jeers of the Giants fans by which I'm surrounded.
I was in the left field bleachers, watching Bonds take his position for a few games, including Nomar Garciaparra's debut, Greg Maddux's 300th win, and the game in which former Cub Juan Pierre robbed Bonds of his 714th Home Run.
California life as a Cubs fan could be much worse.
I picked my game carefully at first, watching the rotation, to see which game Carlos Zambrano would be featured in, only to find my favorite player would miss this series by one game.
I thought about watching the Cubs power coming off the bats of Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, only to see they wouldn't make the SF series either.
With reluctance, I felt at least the new Cub, the one I liked so much, maybe he would patrol center field for my Cubbies. Alas, Reed Johnson, the gritty hard-nosed grinder, would miss the first three games of this series, including the game to which I had tickets.
So I made my trek to San Francisco, determined to witness Ryan Dempster's first road win in three years, confident that if he could defeat an offense on the road, surely the Giants' woes would be his salve.
And yet, Ray Durham's eagerness to hit a first pitch fastball, and Carlos Marmol's desire to get in front of the next hitter left me and Dempster shaking our heads in disbelief.
I thought up and down the lineup, looking for a pinch-hitter who could make the difference, a speedster who could steal that base, and I nearly overlooked the shortest Cub in recent memory, Mike Fontenot.
He's a great little player, a full five inches shorter than me, but he came up big in July last season, and has played a useful and versatile role for Chicago this season. But let's not forget his recent outburst of power.
Being limited to occasional spot starts or pinch-hitting duties has kept Fontenot from his high average we fell in love with when he first debuted.
However, his two big flies against the crosstown White Sox, and his game winner tonight, and you can bet Lou Piniella will be finding some more starts for this Giant-killer, no matter how tall he stands.