KODAK (WATE) – The Chicago Cubs are getting ready to take on the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, something Cubs fans have been waiting decades to see.
This Cubs team has a special connection to East Tennessee. Twelve of the players on the World Series roster are former players for the Tennessee Smokies. One local fan, Brady Cox, has a special connection to these Cubs. He spent several years as bat boy for the Smokies.
“I was just a regular bat boy. I was always in the dugout with the guys,” Cox said.
Now 12 of those guys are helping lead the Cubs through the World Series looking for their first win in 108 years.
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“I’m probably like the biggest Kris Bryant fan. A lot of my friends know that and he knows that, and I like Addison Russell and the guy that’s getting a lot of spotlight is Javier Baez,” Cox said.
For all Cubs fans the road to victory has been nerve-wracking as this team tries to get past the Cubbies’ billy goat curse.
“A lot of pressure because I felt like everybody had them going there but me personally, I think the pressure is off now because they got the Steve Bartman, they got the billy goat gone. Now they’re just going to play baseball. And from watching them and actually personally knowing them, they don’t think about the curse,” Cox said.
For Cox it is like watching friends make history.
“Just really nice guys. I always talked to them in the dugout and got to know them personally, and it feels weird. I’m watching the World Series and I know them,” he said.
At Smokies Stadium the halls are lined with the faces of former players now playing in the majors. Smokies Director of Broadcasting Mick Gillispie has seen many of those players on the field.
“We saw it here at Smokies Stadium. Some of the biggest moments were with players that are in the big leagues right now doing it for the Cubs. Kyle Hendricks was the winning pitcher in game 6. We saw him dominate the Southern League,” Gillispie said.
Now for Cubs fans it is time to put decades of cursed teams behind them.
“You start to really buy into those things, you know how could this happen? So for those players to have come through and really cut their teeth here in East Tennessee is a lot of fun,” Gillispie said.
Gillispie called the major league games for several of these former players on the radio, and he is excited to watch them overcome decades of doubt.
“There’s no one alive that knows what it’s like for the Cubs to be champions,” he said. “There’s no living players that were a Cubs World Series participant, so put that in perspective. So people here are excited. People all across the baseball universe are excited.”