02/20 - Still stung by NLCS heartbreak, Cubs fans rekindle hope at Fitch Park - East Valley Tribune: Cactus League

02/20 - Still stung by NLCS heartbreak, Cubs fans rekindle hope at Fitch Park

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Posted: Friday, February 20, 2004 9:00 am | Updated: 6:18 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The Rev. Don Roszkowski believes in the power of prayer — to a point. He’s a Cubs fan.

Roszkowski, a pastor at the St. John’s Catholic Church in Clinton, Ill., stands behind a chain-link fence at Fitch Park Thursday, waiting for the Cubs’ pitchers and catchers to begin their first workout of the spring.

His clerical collar peeks out from underneath a blue Cubs sweater. He’s holding two baseballs in his left hand, a pen in his right hand.

The Bible says, "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength."

He cut it pretty close, though, with that National League Championship Series loss to the Florida Marlins.

"It was a heartbreak for me," Roszkowski said. "I was depressed for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t get it out of my brain."

Some good came out of the sorrow, though.

"I was able to talk to some people in the church about seeing light out of heartbreak," Roszkowski said. "The Cubs are a good example."

The best.

But as spring warms the air and the sight of Greg Maddux warms the heart, the everfaithful Cubs fans are certain this will finally be their championship season.

"I was talking to a friend of mine, and we couldn’t remember ever being more excited about a year," said Steve Lambert, a Chicago native who now lives in Highland, Calif.

The Cubs have tried to burn the smoldering embers of the NLCS with an aggressive offseason in which they signed first baseman Derrek Lee, second baseman Todd Walker, catcher Michael Barrett, reliever LaTroy Hawkins and, finally, welcomed home Maddux with a three-year, $24 million deal.

They believe the National League is theirs for the taking, and those interested in reliving the past might as well have been talking to a wall Thursday morning.

"I’ve been asked about 2003," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker. "When Dick Clark . . . when that ball drops in New York, 2003 is over. There were a lot of good parts to 2003, but I don’t dwell on the negative memories."

"Everything is in the past," added pitcher Carlos Zambrano. "I don’t want to remember. I just want to talk about the future and where we are now."

It’s not that simple, of course. These are the Curse of the Billy Goat Cubs, the 1969 Cubs, the ground ball through Leon Durham’s legs Cubs, Steve Bartman’s Cubs.

The scars are 85 years old and they can’t be wished away.

"To come that close and not win, it consumes you," Lambert said. "It’s all you think about at work, it’s all you think about at home."

Lambert’s son, Max, kneeled on the grass beside him. He’s 13 years old and he lost a lot of tears when Game 7 ended.

He’s still not over it.

"They were robbed," he said quietly.

Lambert brought his son to spring training so they could heal. They looked out upon Maddux, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. They talked about the possibilities. They began, Lambert said, "to get over it all."

It’s spring.

It’s what Cubs fans do.

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