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Nervous itches and superstitions: Cubs fans brace for playoff run

Frank Gronn, a retired Illinois Department of Transportation worker, goes to every home Cubs game he can with his wife, Cyndi. This season has been "one of the better years of my whole life," he said. | Photo courtesy Frank and Cyndi Gronn

If Alex Greenwood’s elbow itches, like every one else, he’ll scratch it.

But during Cubs games, especially come playoff time, scratching is done on a case-by-case basis — depending on a feeling.

“Sometimes if I have an itch I’ll refuse to scratch it because I’ll think it will relate to the outcome of the game,” said Greenwood, who works at Twitter.

“I grew up watching games with my dad, and it’s something I just developed,” said Greenwood, 29, who was raised on the North Shore and lives in Glencoe.

Alex Greenwood and his wife, Caroline. | Provided

Alex Greenwood and his wife, Caroline. | Provided photo

“I know it’s a weird thing. I can’t explain it. It’s my one superstition,” said Greenwood, whose default brain activity is rearranging Cubs lineups.

With their team on the brink of unmentionable greatness, the forces at play in the life of a die-hard Cubs fan are immeasurable.

The Cubs wrapped up their season Sunday, and they’ll start the playoffs at Wrigley Field on Friday.

“I’m scared of my own shadow right now,” sad Joe Bein, 37, who lives nine blocks from Wrigley Field because, he jokes, his wife won’t allow him to live eight blocks from Wrigley Field.

“It’s nervous energy and anxiousness for me, but I’m absolutely ready for the playoffs,” said Bein, who wore Cubs cuff links to his wedding.

“It’s not been easy being a Cubs fan. It’s very hard. It’s a very masochistic obsession,” added Bein, who went into the family business of restoring and selling rare violins. “I hope the games are scheduled during the evening so I can focus on them and not have to pretend to be working at the office.”

Joe Bein with his daughter at Wrigley Field. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Joe Bein with his daughter, Haley, at Wrigley Field. | Provided photo

Ann Lantolf’s excitement is nearly weapons grade.

Lantolf, 82, a retired school teacher from Arlington Heights, played first base on a baseball team in high school and was offered a spot on an East Coast minor league team akin to the ones featured in the movie “A League of Their Own.”

“I was only 15 at the time and my dad said ‘No way.’ ”

“My mother would sign but my dad would not, and you had to have both signatures to play. I was upset about that and I think I still am. I never did forgive him for it.”

Her baseball dreams play out vicariously through the Cubs, mostly.

She did go to batting practice at Wrigley Field a couple of years ago — a perk offered to season ticket holders — and “made pretty good contact.”

“I go to the Cubs conventions and anything the Cubs offer, really. I’m just a big fan. I know the game and I love the game,” she said.

Season-ticket holder Ann Lantolf,a retired schoolteacher, played baseball in high school and once got to take batting practice at Wrigley Field. | Sun-Times file photo

Season-ticket holder Ann Lantolf once got to take batting practice at Wrigley Field. | Sun-Times file photo

Lantolf was bowling Thursday — her scores: 101, 108, 110 — and one of the ladies at the alley had a brand new T-shirt with a goat, covered with a red circle-and-slash. It read: “I’m not afraid of no goat.”

“I loved it. I took a picture and with her posted it on Facebook,” Lantolf said.

Frank Gronn, 70, of Streamwood, is ready for the playoffs, but nervous about the possibility of something bad happening.

“All these years it’s sort of ingrained in me that something’s going to happen. This year is different, but . . . still, in the back of my mind, you just don’t know.”

“It’s one of the better years of my whole lifetime,” said Gronn, a retired Illinois Department of Transportation worker who goes to every home game he can with his wife, Cyndi.

“It’s a bat and a round ball,” he said. “And you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”