CLEVELAND — You can’t grow up in the north suburbs, play baseball every waking moment as a kid, live on the same street as Steve Bartman and not bleed a little Cubbie blue.
Jason Kipnis admits as much, and oh, the sweet irony for the All-Star second baseman who’ll be counted on to help lead the Cleveland Indians past the Cubs in the World Series.
When the Cubs won the National League pennant by defeating the Dodgers Saturday, Kipnis said he actually “choked up.”
“It was weird,’’ he said Monday, a day before the Cubs and Indians played Game 1 of the World Series. “All I saw on social media and heard from my friends was nothing but Cubs posts.’’
Kipnis, a Chicago Sun-Times 2005 all-area infielder at Glenbrook North who grew up in Northbrook – where he bought a new home in June — was happy for his friends and extended family members in the Chicago are who are Cubs fans.
“It’s cool to see; I know the history of the team,’’ he said. “I didn’t know how to really handle it. I couldn’t tell if I was happy, sad or mad. But I was emotional.’’
Of greater to concern to Kipnis is his left ankle, which he rolled when his foot landed on Francisco Lindor’s in the Indians’ on-field celebration after they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays to clinch the AL pennant. It’s not 100 percent and if he’ll have to play through pain on a cold night in Cleveland Tuesday if it’s good to go.
“It’s going through a progression right now,’’ Kipnis said. “It wasn’t exactly a mild sprain. I got it pretty good.’’
Kipnis hurt himself “literally on the first jump” of the celebration
“But trust me, we win this one I’m jumping even higher,’’ he said.
Indians fans, who haven’t enjoyed a World Series title since 1948, will leap as well.
The Cubs? Kipnis knows how long it’s been since they’ve won a World Series (1908).
“They’re the only drought that can make ours look small,’’ he said. “They’re the longest two droughts and they still got us by 40 years.
“They’re lovable losers, they’ve always been. They’re not really losers any more. They’re a pretty darn good ballclub. They’re strong in everything they do.’’
Even stronger than when Kipnis began rooting for the Cubs during the Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace era of the 1980s and 90s, he said. And with Sammy Sosa.
“During the 1998 season it was, ‘Hey Sammy’s up,’ get to a TV every time,’’ Kipnis said. ”On WGN there was always four of his at-bats on the recaps from that game. That was pretty much what I grew up on.’’
His neighbor, Steve Bartman, was growing up on the same thing. And then he became a part of Cubs lore.
“The only thing I’m mad at Bartman for is missing an easy fly ball,’’ Kipnis joked.
“There’s no blame on him and there never should have been.’’
Kipnis “very vividly” recalls sthe ecurity around Bartman’s home after Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. He said an appropriate end to the Bartman story would be for him to throw out a first pitch at the World Series.
“He deserves it,’’ Kipnis said. “Everyone would go nuts.’’
For Cubs fans, the topper would be a World Series victory over the Indians, which Kipnis would be able to relate to.
“There’s not one part of me that wishes this curse doesn’t keep going,’’ he said “Let’s be clear on that. It’s just — I know what everyone grew up with.’’