Life in the Minors
Just call us the Windy City winners
For the past couple of weeks, anticipation has weighed heavy on our minds here with the Windy City Thunderbolts, as we have waited to secure our first postseason appearance in the nine-year existence of our franchise.
Our ballclub originated as the Cook County Cheetahs in 1999, going 41-43 that season. Unfortunately, that would be the best winning percentage the franchise would record, running off seven more losing campaigns from 2000 to 2006, the last three as the Windy City Thunderbolts.
This season, we have been fortunate to enjoy our fair share of success, sitting atop the league's Central Division since the first series of the season. With the 2005 league champion Kalamazoo Kings, the 2004 Frontier League champ Rockford Riverhawks and Traverse City Beach Bums joining us in the Central this year, we knew we had our work cut out for us.
Needless to say, knowing we had a chance to clinch the team's first division crown at home this past week had us all a little anxious to get on with playing ball. After taking two of three against the Southern Illinois Miners, we knew we were really, really close to clinching. But as I noted last week, Mother Nature had other ideas, and so we were forced to wait another day.
But after our doubleheader sweep of the Otters the next day, we stood poised to bring home the division title with a win the next day, and I certainly could not wait to get back to the field on Friday to make a run at it.
When we got to the ballpark the next day, we could all feel a little extra energy in the air. From the players to the coaching staff to the grounds crew to the front office to the ticket takers, everybody was eager to bring home the division title.
When the final out was recorded, our boys charged the field and dog-piled our pitcher on the mound. For our guys, the moment was an exhilarating release. For the nearly 90 games we had played to that point, our players had done a remarkable job of keeping their blue-collar work ethic and their focus on the goal. Winning the division title was a major landmark for us, but definitely not our end goal -- to win the league championship series.
But this moment allowed us all to smile and enjoy what we accomplished. Our guys jumped and hugged and laughed and yelled as if they didn't have a care in the world. Soon we all retreated to the clubhouse, where the champagne was flowing and the beer kegs were tapped as we all enjoyed a little celebration.
True to form, our guys returned the next day ready to work again. We beat Kalamazoo the next two days before taking off on a regular-season-ending six-game road trip through Michigan. I think our mini celebration did us all some good, as it allowed us to relax and enjoy our success for a moment before we put our collective shoulder to the grindstone to continue our push toward a shot at the league championship, and hopefully it gave us a glimpse of another celebration to come.