The Day I (Almost) Met Tom Ricketts
By Andrew Denny
Throughout the journey that is this thing called “life”, we all have a couple people we deeply admire. We may not always admit it, but admiration and emulation gives us something to live for in the fantasy world, even if just for a second.
Some people follow astrology, others follow actors. Me? I follow baseball celebrities.
I realize this make me no different from the average star trek fanatic when it comes to overall “nerd-dom” and frankly, I couldn’t give less of a damn.
Baseball is my mistress. She never nags, she never asks for more blankets, and she sure as hell doesn’t ask for mashed potatoes at 3 am just because she had a craving. Her and I have a beautiful thing going.
Sep 20, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts in attendance before the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Ironically enough, it was an evening away from baseball that almost landed me in the same bar as Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs.
Let me set the stage briefly: I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, and typically drink at low key pubs when I need to blow off some steam. The odds of running in to anyone significant in baseball history is literally less than slim to nil. Regardless, I had been invited to celebrate a couple of birthdays with some old friends from within the curling community in Ottawa. Curlers tend to drink…. a lot… and I am guilty of enjoying a delicious craft beer as often as the next surly fellow.
The destination for the party was the Lieutenant’s Pump, a popular pub for what we’ll call “an older young crowd” in Ottawa. This is a great little spot for anyone who may be visiting the city one day, so don’t be shy to check it out. I was on my way towards the bus (because only suckers get DUIs) when my phone buzzed. Naturally, I picked it up and saw a text from another good friend who was planning on joining the party: Brit.
Brit and I don’t get to see each other too often so it’s always a treat to hear from her. She wanted to meet up at a pub near her girlfriend’s house before going to the birthday party. This pub is called “The Berryman” and is also a fantastic little bar. Great staff, clean, plenty of selection on the drink menu…. I could go on, but I won’t bore you.
I immediately jumped at the chance to see Brit, as her girlfriend had just undergone surgery to repair her knee and was in need of care fairly regularly. This task obviously fell to nurse Brit, and a night out for her was a rarity. I agreed to meet her at the Berryman for around 11:30.
As I arrived at the bar, I noticed Brit had not arrived yet, so I sat down at the bar and ordered a drink. Being a Cubs fan, I wore my Ryne Sandberg HOF edition t-shirt out on the town. Nothing better than showing a little cubbie pride in a hockey country, right? Coincidentally enough, as I remove my jacket (yes, it’s still winter in Canada) the barkeeper caught eye of my t-shirt.
He served me my drink and said: “You know the owner of the Cubs was in here last night”
I sat perplexed for a second. “What?!” I replied.
“Yeah” he said in what was a semi-convincing tone. “He knows the owner of this place. Nice guy. He’s coming tonight too”
I would have paid to have seen the look on my face at this point, as awestruck wouldn’t have even begun to cover it. I went over the possibilities in my head over and over again. There’s no way that Tom Ricketts would be in Ottawa, let alone at a little pub in Centertown. I ran through my mental roladex of things “cubs” in Ottawa and remembered that there is a Tier 1 “Capital City Cubs” team that plays in the famed NCBL, the only hardball league in Ottawa.
“Oh… you mean the NCBL Cubs” I said to the barkeeper casually, almost certain that there had been a small misunderstanding. “The shirt is the MLB team though”.
The barkeeper went on “No man, like the big squad – in Chicago”
Of course now I thought I was just subject to a prank. There’s no way that Tom Ricketts was in Ottawa. I inquired further with the barkeeper:
“Tom Ricketts… like THE Tom Ricketts is going to be here tonight”
The barkeeper replied “Yeah man. Hey *inaudible* come here for a sec!”
Another man walked up to the barkeeper but went behind the bar. This must have been the owner. The two conspired for a moment as they clarified that Tom Ricketts would indeed be there later that night and was in fact there the night before. The two looked at me and the bartender gave me the thumbs up.
I just about shit my pants at that very moment.
I was so immediately flustered that I’m shocked I didn’t fall off my seat. I began to feel like a highschool gal before her prom: was my hair ok? Is my shirt wrinkled? Does my breath smell of beer? I didn’t want to upset Tom in any way if I was going to be in the same building as him, decked out in Cubs gear.
As I looked in to it further, it turns out that Rickett’s wife is from Ottawa, which would explain his presence in the city during easter weekend and the Berryman pub is a big baseball hub in this city. Many events are hosted there and the pub itself is gracious to the baseball community considering the ties the owner has to the MLB.
I was so excited at the prospect of seeing Ricketts, I hadn’t even noticed a text from Brit, saying that her girlfriend was still in pain and that she couldn’t leave her side. She lamented that she couldn’t be there, but I assured her that it was just fine. I didn’t explain the situation to her, and she still wont know until she reads this. So Brit, if you’re reading this, thanks for making me go to the Berryman that night. I owe you big time.
Time was of the essence unfortunately. I was 3/4 done my pint and knew I had another 15 minutes of walking to make it to my friend’s birthday party at the other bar. Midnight had clocked by and still no sign of Ricketts. I grew concerned.
Still, the city of Ottawa continues to impress me, and a friendly gentleman pulled up a seat next to mine and we discussed Sandberg’s career, Cubs folklore and shared our best memories of the Montreal Expos. He was a Red Sox fan, and we clearly had a few different opinions about the whole “Theo Eptein” debacle. It was all in good fun and very refreshing to see a true baseball fan in a city where baseball is often left by the way side.
12:30 am had rolled on and there was still no sign of Ricketts. If I was going to make the birthday party, I was going to have to leave. I sat there and contemplated my options: “Maybe they’ll forgive me if I don’t go. I’ll just explain the circumstances to them!” but ultimately, the right thing to do was to join them, with or without seeing Mr. Ricketts.
Getting up from that barstool and saying goodbye to my new friend was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my young life. I literally left an opportunity to meet a man I admire so greatly and pine over on a regular basis. He is the real and veritable “man crush” of my life.
It was a long walk to the next bar knowing that Tom could have just been pulling up as I was leaving. I know I’ll never get that chance again.
However, the warm reception I received when I arrived at the birthday party was well worth leaving Mr. Ricketts behind for. I understood why we are all friends at that moment, and their enthusiasm had nothing to do with being overly intoxicated… at all….
It turned out to be a great evening, but I still cant help but wonder if Tom ended up showing to the Berryman that night. Who knows, maybe Tom and I would have hit it off and become total BFFs forever and ever… and ever.
Either way, I chose my close friends over my passion and my dreams that evening and I’m fairly certain it was the right decision.
And who knows? Maybe Tom will be back at the Berryman another day. I can always be convinced to go hang out at the pub again, with or without a potential Ricketts sighting.
It’s going to be a pretty lonely existence in the process, but as long as the ball game is on, everything will be fine.
So if you want me, you can find me drinking my sorrows away at the Berryman Pub on a regular basis from now on, dreaming of the day when I see Tom Ricketts walk through the front doors.
A man can dream, can’t he?