Cubs trophy worth the wait for many Illini fans

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Austin Yattoni

A fan gets a picture with the World Series Trophy at the Hall of Fame in State Farm Center on Saturday.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Illini hoops columnist

Bill Luttrell lined up outside of State Farm Center at 9 a.m. Saturday.

He wasn’t waiting for tickets to Illinois’ afternoon contest with Minnesota. He already had one. Instead, Luttrell was fighting the harsh, cold winds to witness something he had been waiting 82 years to see — the Chicago Cubs World Series Trophy.

“It’s probably the greatest thing that ever happened,” Luttrell said. “It’s good for everybody. I think everybody enjoys it. There’s Cubs fans everywhere in the whole United States and the world.”

Luttrell, from Buckley, Illinois, came to Champaign with his son and one of his best friend, with whom he played baseball in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League. Luttrell has been a Cubs fan since 1945 when he attended a game in Wrigley Field.

Seventy-two years later and a couple hours waiting in the cold, Luttrell said it was worth the wait.

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    “It was amazing. It was beautiful,” Luttrell said. “Well worth the wait for it. It was awesome.”

    ***

    Also outside battling the elements was Illinois freshman Matt Leigh and his sister, Illinois junior Cassi Leigh. Unfortunately, Matt was under-dressed for the hour-and-a-half wait.

    “It’s really cold,” Matt said. “I literally got there and was like, ‘I probably should have brought a coat or a sweatshirt or something.’ I had gloves though, but I couldn’t feel my hands.”

    The Leighs hail from Kingwood, Texas, and have been Cubs fans their entire lives. While they said being a Cubs fan hasn’t always been easy, the moment with the trophy on Saturday was worth it.

    “Out of dope things that have happened, let’s see, it’s above birth because birth was pretty sweet, but this is way sweeter than birth,” Matt said.

    ***

    Around 11:40 a.m., Champaign residents Andy McClure and his son Devin arrived to State Farm Center. Andy has been a Cubs fan his whole life, and he has instilled that with his son. Devin believed seeing the trophy was a unique moment.

    It was pretty cool because I’m only 10 and I get to see it, and he’s almost 40, and he hasn’t seen it,” Devin said.

    The wait for Andy was a long time coming. Three months after the clinching game, the feeling is still tangible for him.

    “It was an emotional release,” Andy said. “Thirty-nine years of strife — being able to release that — it was an excellent moment.”

    Devin went to bed after Rajai Davis hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. While things were looking grim around that time, Devin was reassured later that night.

    “I could hear my dad downstairs. So I woke up and went downstairs, and I guessed that they had won. My principal is a huge Cubs fan, and he said it was the best day of his life.”

    ***

    In total, 1,300 fans got an up-close glimpse of the trophy on Saturday. During a media timeout in the first half, the crowd at State Farm Center saw the trophy hoisted at center court.

    This moment would not have been possible without Michael Lufrano, the Chicago Cubs Executive Vice President of Community and Government Affairs. Lufrano knew Champaign had to be a stop on the tour.

    “We know there are so many tremendous Cubs fans down there,” Lufrano said. “Our partnership with State Farm in particular made the State Farm Center a unique place because State Farm sponsors the trophy tour.”

    Lufrano, a 1987 Illinois graduate and former member of The Daily Illini, said it was an absolute “phenomenal” feeling being a part of the Cubs organization when the team won the World Series. He has hope that the same could happen for Illinois basketball.

    “We hope we see more and more championships across the state of Illinois,” Lufrano said. “If the Cubs can do it after 108 years, anyone can do it.”

    Matt is a junior in Business.

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    @MattGertsmeier