Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
The last time Greg Maddux started the Cubs' home opener was on April 12, 2004, a day I remember well because it happened to be, through coincidence or providence, the day my daughter was born. If that wasn't a strong enough sign of her destiny, she officially arrived at 1:15 PM, five minutes before the first pitch. Clearly, she is daddy's girl.
The game that day was none too special, as it featured Maddux going a mere 3.2 innings against the lowly Pirates while giving up 8 hits and 6 runs (5 earned), in addition to coughing up a whopping 5 free passes - 15.2% of his walks for the year in only 1.7% of his innings.
The Cubs went on to lose the game 13-2, but I didn't care much, as not only was I now a little girl's father, but that girl was laying in the neonatal intensive care unit, intubated, with a machine helping her breathe. That during the night she ripped the tube from her throat was a sign, not only of her excellent prospects for full recovery, but of her inherent stubbornness and tendency toward the contrarian.
We had her home after a week-long course of antibiotics, and she has never shown any sign of lingering issues from her rough beginning. She is still stubborn, and still contrary, which are tendencies exacerbated by her impending second birthday, but she is also a delight which I cannot begin to describe.
I've never been much of a sentimentalist, and before I had a child I'll admit that I never understood what the big deal was. Sure they were cute and all, but they were also noisy and messy and all sorts of other things that were patently unpleasant. Yet, despite how I might have felt pre-parenthood, things are different now, and it's in large part because of this: There is a smile that a little girl gives to her daddy alone, and only experience can teach you its glory. I never knew it before she came, and I didn't feel any worse for the lack, but now that I've basked in that glow, life without it is unimaginable.
Nearly two years ago, the Cubs opened their season with Greg Maddux on the hill. They lost the game, but it didn't matter because I was given a gift that day, one that I get to enjoy every morning when I wake, and every moment I spend with her. I hope the Cubs win today - it pains me when they don't - but if victory is not in the offing at least I know I have a ready salve in a little girl's grin, and the twinkle of love in her eyes.