Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chicago baseball fans get taste of home in Las Vegas

Cubs play White Sox in exhibition game at Cashman Field for annual Big League Weekend

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, March 13, 2010 | 10:38 p.m.

The Windy City has moved west — at least for a couple days.

Sitting 26 rows behind home plate at Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Jerry Kern, who grew up in Chicago, enjoyed a glimpse of his childhood Saturday afternoon.

“It’s just like Wrigley Field today with this wind, but a little bit nicer out,” Kern said as he braved wicked desert winds gusting to more than 30 mph.

Kern was one of the many Chicago Cubs fans who made the trip to Las Vegas for 2010 Big League Weekend to watch his team sweep a two-game exhibition series from their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox.

“It’s great here,” he said. “Baseball, gambling and the Cubs are ahead of the White Sox. What more is there?”

Since the 1980s, when Las Vegans started receiving WGN-TV’s broadcasts of the Cubs games, the team’s local fan base has flourished.

Local baseball legend Greg Maddux, now a member of the Cubs organization, said the fan base here flourished in the 1980s, after Las Vegas started receiving WGN-TV’s broadcasts of the Cubs games.

Maddux is back in town with the Cubs as an assistant to General Manager Jim Hendry and is working with pitchers during spring training.

“It’s cool,” he said about being back home. “I live here, and it’s nice coming back home to watch the boys play.”

Ray Mytych, a native Chicagoan, said regular trips to Cashman Field have become a tradition.

“You make new friends and you meet new friends,” said Mytych, who has lived in Las Vegas for 12 years. “You see a lot of Chicagoans, see the Cubs and most importantly, look forward to a new season.”

He said watching the Cubs on television makes him feel more at home.

“I watched WGN as a kid in black and white,” he said. “Watching it here makes me feel like I’m back home in Chicago.”

So, too, does it for Clyde DeWitt and Cherie Lee Williams, who made the move from Los Angeles to Las Vegas a few months ago.

“We love this and try to make it every year,” Williams said. “It’s wonderful to see your team play live.”

DeWitt, who prides himself on being “a one-man crew to get (former Cubs third baseman) Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame,” has attended more than 200 games at Wrigley Field but said watching baseball in Las Vegas never gets old.

“There’s just something about baseball,” he said. “There’s no other sport like it, nothing more relaxing than watching a baseball game.”

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