There are signs of life on the North Side.
Among the construction rubble surrounding the outfield wall of the Friendly Confines lie two slightly smudged baseballs. Alone and dirtied, they bear no great significance to Chicago’s sporting universe.
But the story behind those two baseballs makes them more than just a simple combination of rubber, yarn and leather. They represent hope for the miserably destitute land north of the Chicago River, inhabited not by giant predators but merely Cubs.
Though those two baseballs’ lives landed in very different places, their story is one and the same. They arrived on a one-way ticket off the thundering bat of Jorge Soler.
The Cuban sensation’s two two-run homers brought the Cubs back from the proverbial dead against the Cincinnati Reds twice on Monday night.
His Caribbean brother Arismendy Alcantara sealed the victory with a walk-off single in the 10th inning and Wrigley Field’s loudspeakers, deathly silent more often than not this past century, blared “Go Cubs Go” as joyous fans sang along.
Just six games into what has been prophesied as the year the Cubs win the pennant (Back to the Future fans will get the reference), the North Siders have come from behind two times now to win a ballgame in the late innings.
The day before, Dexter Fowler hit a mammoth two-run bomb that sailed in the light Denver air into the stands and carried the Cubs to a series victory against Colorado. The homer was particularly sweet for Fowler, a former Rocky himself.
The sweetest thing of all, however, is that Chicago is winning games it has no business winning. The Cubs were down two runs in the ninth against Colorado, and supposed stud starter Jon Lester surrendered three-run leads not once but twice at home against the Reds.
And that is why those two baseballs are a sign of greater times. They are more than just two home runs hit by Soler. They are two home runs hit by one exuberant young member of a core that promises to play an exciting brand of baseball this season and for many years to come at Wrigley.
Well, not just exciting baseball –– winning baseball. Sustainable success is not something Cubs fans are familiar with, but Theo Epstein is doing his best to lead the aimless wanderers out of the abyss to Major League legitimacy.
The birth of a new era needs stronger leadership. Epstein and now Manager Joe Maddon are those guiding figures.
And no empire is without its heroes.
One seems to have arrived in the form of Soler Power. The other is waiting in the wings to become the Windy City’s beloved idol. Kris Bryant is just days away from making his long-awaited Major League debut.
Kingdoms aren’t built overnight…which becomes clear as soon as you step into the ballpark. A World Series title this season is a bit premature. Sorry, Marty McFly.
But a couple years from now, when those two baseballs find a glove or plastic half-full beer cup in the bleachers instead of a construction worker’s helmet, Cubs fans will look back on Soler’s huge day as the beginning of a new era.
An era that will finally bring the North Side its elusive World Series title.