The trip to Des Moines to sing for the Cubs’ AAA affiliate was extra special with lots of family members joining me, second only to singing at Wrigley Field.
The performance coincided with my brother Rick’s visit to the United States from his home near Manchester, England. He traveled to the States with his two lovely daughters Claudia and Eve.
Since we were driving to the Midwest and Rick wanted to visit as many family members as possible, we took off one summer morning in our car. We drove west, stopping first in Metropolis, Ill. to see the large Superman statue. We later stopped in St. Louis to enjoy the frozen custard at Ted Drewes. Finally, after a long drive across Missouri to Kansas City and then north to Omaha, we arrived at my brother Andy’s house.
After a pizza party at Andy’s house, Rick and the girls went upstairs to sleep while I followed our sister Catherine across town to stay at her house. I enjoyed sleeping in Henry’s bedroom, adorned with lots of Notre Dame and Cubs decorations.
Note: Henry serves in the U. S. Coast Guard. When he graduated from the Academy, then President Obama was the commencement speaker and handed diplomas to the graduates. Henry knew #44 is from the south side of Chicago and a big White Sox fan. That didn’t deter Henry, who retells the story in his own words:
“It was a brief moment. As I watched many of my shipmates publicly break the rule to not pose or do anything outside of merely shaking hands on the stage, I decided to really find out POTUS’s view on the north side. When I walked up and received the commission I said “Thank you Mr. President, Go Cubs” and then we turned towards the camera and he responded with a quiet “Uhhh no.” At that, I held onto the commission pretty tightly to ensure I kept it as I walked off. I regret nothing!”
The next day in Omaha, the family came over and we enjoyed a Wiffle Ball game in the Kelly backyard, the site of the annual Dundee Classic Wiffle Ball Tournament. Read more about this event, which was once attended by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and his children.
The next day, Andy and I drove family members in two cars from Omaha to Iowa, passing cornfields, windmills, and the occasional tractor. We arrived at Principal Park, the home of the Iowa Cubs, near an old tavern where we met up with Brigid’s sister Mary.
The gang proceeded to eat a pregame meal, but I couldn’t eat, I was too anxious. I left and started singing the lyrics repeatedly as I walked to the ballpark.
As I walked up the ramp and surveyed the entire field, I looked over the left center field wall and saw the state capitol building of Iowa. Shining brightly in the late afternoon sun was the capitol’s golden dome, so I knew tonight would be a good night. Note: Many of us graduates of the University of Notre Dame have a fondness for golden domes. 🙂
My performance of the National Anthem went very well. The Iowa Cubs regularly record each game, so later in the mail I received a DVD of the entire game and my National Anthem performance.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of singing for the Cubs’ minor league teams is to see future stars before they get to Wrigley Field. In the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed watching players Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and Jorge Soler. I’ve also enjoyed meeting managers like Marty Pevey and Gary Van Tol. Who knows who else will get the call to go The Show.
On this evening, the Iowa Cubs, with starting shortstop Javier Baez, defeated the Omaha Storm Chasers 4-1, wearing camouflage jerseys.
We said our goodbyes to Andy and family after visiting the Gift Shop, making sure I had a home ball cap from Iowa. Rick and girls and I then drove almost two hours east to get closer to Illinois. The next day we drove to Chicago, where we stayed downtown overnight. I drove home the next day, but Rick and girls stayed in Chicago for two more days.
As I drove home, I stopped at the Chicago Bears’ training camp and watched a scrimmage. I also stopped in Clinton, Indiana at the Oldsmobile dealership where my Nonno (and namesake) worked, and at the IGA to buy some Volpi Genoa salami (a family favorite).
Like I said earlier, there is so much more to these trips than traveling and singing. When family is involved, it’s so much sweeter.
Next stop: South Bend