My name is James Neveau, and I’m a baseball junkie.
Even though I write about the Blackhawks and the Bears for NBC Chicago, the sport that I am most passionate about is baseball. Ever since I was old enough to be left in the swinging chair by my mom, I have been watching games. It was those times, as well as the gentle prodding by my father, that made me into the man I am today: an unabashed Chicago Cubs fan.
I’ve experienced my fair share of highs and lows, just like any other fan. Words can’t describe my emotions when the Cubs actually knocked off the Atlanta Braves during the 2003 NLDS. Words also fail me when trying to describe what happened in my heart when the Cubs fell to the Florida Marlins in the NLCS that same year.
Outside of those moments experienced through a television set, there have also been all sorts of moments, positive and negative, that I have been lucky enough to see in person at Wrigley Field and other baseball stadiums. There were the 16 runs that the Cubs hung on the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Opening Day in 2005. There was the walk-off single up the middle by Alfonso Soriano that I got to witness from just two rows behind home plate. Who can forget the pitching duel I got to witness just a little further back in the Wrigley grandstand when Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez, one a Hall of Famer and the other likely to be inducted next year, on a warm spring night at the Friendly Confines?
Of course, the bad moments are still there in my memory too. Watching the Cubs load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, only to watch three straight batters strike out to end the game stands out. Another low came when Paul Konerko and the Chicago White Sox torched Maddux and the Cubs in my first (and God willing, my only) Crosstown Classic game that I’ve attended.
Finally, and most traumatically of all, there was the game against the Reds in 2004. The Cubs, still very much alive in the wild card race, had two outs and an 0-2 count on Austin Kearns. Naturally, LaTroy Hawkins, forever the bane of my existence, grooved a fastball over the middle of the plate, and Kearns slugged it to the outfield wall to tie the game up. Kearns then blasted a 12th inning home run off Kyle Farnsworth just to make the pain worse, and the Cubs not only lost that game but ended up losing the wild card within the next few days.
Overall though, it’s the positive moments that I’ve experienced with the Cubs that remain with me the most. I’ll never forget the steamy day at Wrigley in 2005 when Sammy Sosa hit a home run into the left field basket as a cool mist enveloped the stadium. I also saw Sammy blast a home run on Father’s Day in 1998, watching from the very top row of the upper deck with my dad and grandpa as he rounded the bases and the crowd went bonkers.
It’s those memories, good and bad, that have cemented my status as a baseball fan for life. It also inspired me to start up this blog with Mr. Settle.
I’ve tried to write about baseball numerous times before, but each time I ended up stopping for a variety of reasons. North Side State of Mind came in the first year of the Cubs’ rebuild, and I quickly lost interest in a team that clearly had lost interest on the diamond. I tried my hand at writing about the Arizona Diamondbacks for Rant Sports, but I couldn’t keep up with the posting requirements, and I was let go. Finally, there have been Xanga pages and Blogspot accounts that I’ve tried to maintain on my own, and none of them ended up being successful.
Why do I think this time will be different? Well, for starters there is the fact that I have more time in my office than I ever have before. Call it the perk of having a full-time job that involves writing, but I am constantly around my computer and am able to research sports topics a lot. I hope to take full advantage of all of that, and to give the baseball blogging business my most emphatic go yet.
In this space, you aren’t going to find the typical fare that you’ll see at other baseball websites. You won’t get generic game recaps. You won’t get boorish clickbait articles designed merely to inflame passions rather than inspire reasoned debate. Instead, you’ll get to see what two fans with a deep and abiding love of the game of the baseball, and the teams that we are discussing, and that is what makes Windy City Hardball such an exciting project for me to be a part of.
Yes, I’m sure that we’ll get into some statistical analysis, and yes, I’m sure that we’ll occasionally succumb to our meatball instincts. By and large though, this blog is just an outlet for both David and myself to discuss this game that we both know and love, and maybe if we’re lucky, we can kick-start conversations with other fans about the two teams that inhabit the city that I consider to be the best one in baseball.
You can follow me on Twitter (if you’re into that sort of thing) @jamesneveau, or you can email DJ or myself at firstname.lastname@example.org.