It was the night of October 19, 2017. I was walking home from Wrigley Field after game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers had just defeated the Cubs to win the series 4 games to 1. The final score that night Los Angeles 11- Chicago 1...and it wasn't that close.
Two thoughts came to mind as I walking west on Addison street. One: baseball is over so winter is right around the corner. Two: I wonder what my friend and colleague John Arguello would have thought of the game, series and season? The two thoughts became interconnected in the last few days.
That night I decided I was going to escape for Chicago for a couple of weeks this winter. If you can get away, even for a short time, it makes the rest of the winter more bearable. As for baseball, I wasn't too upset over the outcome. The Dodgers were clearly the better team during the regular season and it showed up big in the playoffs. I could be happy with the division championship, winning the first round series and knowing the Cubs were set up for future success. I think John would have said pretty much the same thing. He also would have mentioned that certain opportunities like this rarely come around and you need to take advantage of them when you get the chance. Missed opportunities can come back to haunt you. He was a pretty wise dude! More about him in a bit....
On to this winter escape thing....I went to Southern California the first week of this year. I had the opportunity to see my school play in the Rose Bowl and it was off to LA. Yeah, we lost the game, and I still can't figure out how that happened, but I did miss the coldest stretch of the winter season. It was below zero every day I was in SoCal...NEENERS!!!
Then it was on to Arizona last week. I've had this planned since November. It didn't quite work out the way I thought it would except for a couple of things. One: The day after I left Chicago, the snow started...and never stopped! More than a foot of snow...and I missed every single drop. I apparently have a knack for knowing when to leave town. The two worst weeks of winter..GONE!!! No Missed opportunities this winter. Two: It was a chance to make up for a missed up opportunity with my friend John....sorta.
John Arguello started the Cubs Den blog here at ChicagoNow. It's by far the most popular blog here. It's very intelligent baseball writing. Cubs Den is set up so everyone from a casual fan to the most intense Cubs fan can get something out of every piece. I was a reader before I started writing here and it's one of the reasons I decided to come to ChicagoNow.
But John wasn't all about baseball. There were cigars, scotch, music, politics, other sports and so much more. Plus, he was interested and engaged with what the other writers in our community were doing. You'd see a supportive comment on a post that had nothing to do with baseball. He was all about encouraging the other writers. It helped us get better as writers and as human beings. There's not a doubt in my mind that he was the heart and the soul of the ChicagoNow writing community.
A few years ago, John and his wife moved to the Phoenix area. He was really in his element down there. The Cubs train in Mesa and he got to spend a lot of time watching the young prospects practice and grow. He developed relationships with those young players and their coaches and the respect among all of them was mutual.
I'm watching this from afar and decided I wanted to go down there and watch a game with John. That was the plan for 2017 and it didn't happen. One of those missed opportunities. I figured that it wasn't such a big deal and there would be other chances. But this was one of the lost chances that came back to haunt me. It was one that you could never get back.
See...our friend John died last summer. The cancer that we thought he beat a few years ago came back and this time he couldn't overcome it. He's missed by all that knew him.
I think of him every so often and lament that final missed opportunity. I know there's nothing I can do about that but while I was in Arizona, I knew I had a chance to make it somewhat better....somewhat.
The Cubs organization liked and respected him so much that they named this little strip after him. It was on the back lot of the complex, where all the minor league prospects train. The place where he loved to spend his time...watching, analyzing and engaging with people. The Honorary John Arguello Way is in the perfect place.
If there was one thing I needed to do while in the area, it was seeing that sign.
Sunday, I took a road trip to Mesa. A bus, a train and another bus got me to Sloan Park. I had no idea where the sign was and it took three people to get me to the location. All were familiar with John but it was the third one who really remembered him and showed me where to go.
I finally found the sign and it was pretty moving to see such a great tribute to my friend. It was my chance to pay a tribute to someone I very much liked and respected. I took a couple of photos, including this selfie of me with the sign. The only thing better would have been if John had been there instead of the sign. Oh man...those missed opportunities.
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