One of Jason Kipnis’ most conflicted friends, a diehard Cubs fan, couldn’t help but celebrate his buddy’s big October triumph on Saturday night.
Shortly after the conclusion of Game 4, a contest Kipnis put out of reach with a piercing, late three-run homer, the second baseman’s childhood pal attempted to disrupt his postgame interview by repeatedly yelling “Kip, you’re a legend.”
A Glenbrook North High School product, Kipnis said the interaction perfectly encapsulates what has been an overwhelmingly positive response from family and friends as he battles the team he once rooted for in his first World Series appearance. Courtesy of Kipnis’ blast and a stellar outing by Corey Kluber, the Cleveland Indians are only one win away from a title after they downed the Cubs 7-2 in front of 41,706 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs and Indians play Game 5 at 7:08 p.m. on Sunday night.
“That’s one of my best friends,” Kipnis said. “That guy’s an idiot. That tells you what kind of friends I’ve got. They’ve been here the whole time and they’re making it that more fun and easier for me.
“You can't draw this up. Everyone makes that situation -- T-ball or whiffle ball in the backyard -- and I just got to live it. You can imagine what kind of high I'm feeling right now.”
You can’t imagine how conflicted Sean Wallis must feel right now.
He has season tickets down the right-field line and considers himself a huge Cubs fan. The company he works for is affiliated with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.
But Wallis — the senior point guard for Glenbrook North’s 2005 state championship varsity basketball team — has played sports with Kipnis since they were 8. He’s followed his career from high school to Arizona State to the minor leagues, where he also once disrupted a postgame interview at Triple-A Columbus.
This is a scenario none of Kipnis nor his friends and family could ever have imagined. Yet here it is playing out in front of all of them at Wrigley Field as the Cubs make their first World Series appearance since 1945. And on Saturday, Kipnis made his biggest contribution of the postseason, going 3-for-5 with a double, two runs and three RBIs.
“It’s crazy,” Wallis said. “It’s unbelievable.”
“No one ever could have imagined this happening. We joked about it during the course of the year -- Who would you root for in a Cubs-Indians World Series? But no one ever imagined this type of outcome.”
Earlier in the week, Kipnis talked at length about his love of all things Cubs. His favorite players were Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa. He doesn’t think his former neighbor, Steve Bartman, deserves any of the flack he’s received from Cubs fans all these years. And he can’t believe that his first foray into the World Series is up against the Cubs’ first appearance in the Fall Classic in 71 years.
But Kipnis said he had “zero conflict” extending the Cubs’ World Series title drought another year. Even though that victory might crush the dreams of his friends and family, Kipnis said nobody has given him any grief.
“To be put into a situation like this and actually have something happen like that is, for lack of a better term, it's a dream come true,” Kipnis said.
It’s a pretty cool moment for his friends, too.
Just ask Wallis.
His team could be headed home for yet another disappointing winter. But it might sting just a little less if it involves his friend.
“No matter what was going to happen it was going to be an enjoyable series,” Wallis said. “If the Indians are going to win, I wouldn’t have it any other way that it’s him that is hitting the big homer and getting the double in the first inning.
“It’s incredible. For him to play in a World Series is unbelievable. But for him to get to do it here and play as well as he has is remarkable.”