By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Eric and Ryan Suender drove nearly three hours from the east side of the state and camped outside St. Joseph High School for five hours on Monday.
For all this, the father and son duo were rewarded with the first spot in a long line to see the Chicago Cubs’ World Series trophy at the high school’s fieldhouse.
“We came down here because we are big Cubs fans,” Ryan Suender said. Their family has supported the team from the north side of Chicago dating back to four generations. “It was a great bonding moment for me and my dad.”
The two Clarkson, Mich., residents weren’t expecting to be first in line. After they parked themselves in front of the fieldhouse doors, the next people arrived about 10 minutes later.
By 8:30 a.m. – when the school opened the doors – the line stretched from the school entryway to along the track at Dickinson Stadium.
“We wanted to have an adventure,” Eric Suender said of the trip. “Stuff like this makes memories and this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Commissioner’s Trophy made its way to the high school shortly after 8:30 a.m., where it was first brought to the competition gym for a few special guests to get their photos taken with it – which included school board members, administrators and county officials.
While there was no motorcade, the trophy came with its own handlers. In addition, local police were there on standby.
Superintendent Ann Cardon said the school district was contacted by the Cubs organization about three weeks ago.
They had shown interest in the school as a venue for the trophy tour after meeting with St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson, who recommended the high school.
“It’s inspiring to have it here in St. Joe,” Cardon said after getting her photo taken with the trophy. “We’ve never hosted anything like this before, but we had Miss America here a couple years ago.”
In good company
One of the Cubs biggest fans in Congress also was on hand for pictures Monday.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton played an instrumental part in getting the trophy to Michigan’s 6th Congressional District.
The Cubs called him in December, asking if he wanted the trophy to come to Southwest Michigan for a day. Upton said he chose President’s Day because it is a federal holiday, which ensured he wouldn’t be interrupted by voting sessions in Washington, D.C.
Upton said he originally recommended Silver Beach Pizza as the St. Joseph location. However, the Cubs advance team said it would have been too small.
“That’s where I watched Game 7, and they always have the Cubs game on,” Upton said of Silver Beach Pizza. “But the school worked perfectly for this. It’s so nice to see everyone enjoying the trophy.”
The Commissioner’s Trophy was taken to the Cityscape Events Center in downtown Kalamazoo later on Monday. But Upton said he is working to bring the trophy to the nation’s capitol in June.
Heather Way-Kitzes, a Cubs spokeswoman and manager of government and neighborhood relations, said the trophy tour has more than 120 stops throughout the U.S. It will even travel to Mesa, Ariz. on Wednesday, for spring training.
Due to the length of the franchise’s championship drought, Monday marked the first time a Cubs World Series trophy had been in Michigan.
With that history in mind, Paul Dobleski said he and his wife were not going to miss the Commissioner’s Trophy visit to St. Joseph. The Stevensville resident and Chicago native used to live about seven miles from Wrigley Field.
Walking three blocks and catching the bus to the games was a recurring trip for Dobleski when he was a kid. He recalled going with his mom, sister and aunt to Wednesday games – which he referred to as Ladies’ Day, when women could attend Cubs game for free.
Dobleski said he hopes the Cubs repeat as champions, but doesn’t want to get too greedy.
“I don’t want to look a gift horse in the face. I’m just happy to see them win in my lifetime,” Dobleski said. “I have relatives who are no longer with us that weren’t able to see them win. I have an uncle that still lives in Chicago, he served during World War II. He’s 90 years old and this is the greatest thing he’s ever seen. As soon as I get home, I’m sending him a picture.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 21, 2017)