David Bote wasn’t sure what to expect Monday when he exited the Wrigleyville building where he lives with his wife, Rachel, and their two children.
A surprise parade? A horde of paparazzi? Continued dancing in the streets from the night before, when Bote gutted the Nationals with a two-out, two-strike, walk-off grand slam heard ’round the baseball universe?
He certainly expected a different sort of Cubs day off than what he is used to.
But the Botes went to a Starbucks around the corner from Wrigley Field. They strolled through Millennium Park, with stops in between. Care to guess how many fans approached the 25-year-old rookie to offer congratulations, ask for selfies, throw rose petals at his feet or whatever else it is they do when a star is in their midst?
One measly fan recognized Bote after one of the most dramatic home runs in Cubs history.
“It’s OK,” he said Tuesday, out of the lineup for the Cubs’ series-opening 7-0 defeat against the Brewers. “I enjoy it when people recognize me, and I don’t take offense to it when they don’t. By no means do I expect anything of that sort.”
Bote has come out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best, brightest stories of this Cubs season. He’s hitting .329 and flashing a pretty good glove at third base, softening the blow created by the elongated absence of the team’s best player, Kris Bryant. He also has been clutch, starting with a walk-off base on balls to beat the Reds in July followed by a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning in a victory against the Diamondbacks later that month.
Not bad for a guy who nearly quit baseball twice, more recently in 2016. The Botes had a newborn daughter, Shayli, and Rachel was buckling her in the car and driving between various Cubs minor-league locales as well as traveling to and from their home in Colorado.
“I told her, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t put you through this anymore. This is insane, what I’m having you do on this ride. I’m giving you an out. I feel awful putting us through this,’ ” Bote said.
It wasn’t merely guilt that was gnawing at Bote. His minor-league numbers were run-of-the-mill. As far as the horizon stretched, he was having trouble spotting any sign of the big leagues.
But Rachel assured him: “Well, if you still love the game, don’t let us stop you. I support you 100 percent.”
How sweet, then, for Rachel to flip on the TV Sunday to get an idea of what time her husband would be home, only to find the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and Bote up to bat. She hurriedly slid open the door to their balcony — from which they can see the field at Wrigley — and stepped out in time to drink in the mayhem that ensued after Bote obliterated a 2-2 pitch from Ryan Madson.
“Pretty neat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s pretty neat what he did, and what it means for him and his family and us, of course, [and] even the city.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called one of the moments of the year in all of baseball “unbelievable.”
“That really struck a chord with everyone,” Epstein said. “I probably got more texts after that game than some of our World Series games.”
It never would’ve happened had Bote not doubled down a couple of years back on his baseball dream.
“Ever since 2016, when all those things were [happening], my daily approach is, ‘Can I get 1 percent better today, and how can I help the team win?’ ” he said. “Wherever that takes me, it’s going to take me.”
It seems an inevitability that, as the season grinds toward the homestretch and the stakes get higher, Bryant will return to his perch at third, and Bote will begin to fade into the background. It could mean a bench role with the Cubs. It could mean a return to Class AAA Iowa. It likely will mean more of the same back-and-forth for a player who has been called up five times in 2018.
Whatever opportunity presents itself, he’ll be ready to swing from the heels at it.
“It’s a business, and the goal is to win a World Series,” he said. “However that gets done, I’m all in. And if that’s sending me back down for two weeks until the September roster expands, then that’s the [reality], and let’s do it.”
Fan frenzy or not, he’ll always have an August game against the Nats when he lit the night on fire.
“Baseball is a fun game,” he said. “It’s a crazy game. I don’t know what else to say. It’s just baseball.”