By Robert Novotny, under special arrangement with the ABL
Name: Dallas Kilponen
From: Kensington in Sydney, New South Wales
Supports in ABL: Sydney Blue Sox
Supports in MLB: Chicago Cubs
Currently Holding MLB World Series Tickets: No
Backstory: Melissa Issacson of ESPN.com recently did a profile on Dallas. Notably, the piece featured a beautiful photo of Kilponen holding up the Cubs “W” flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The headlines alternately called him Australia’s “Biggest Cubs Fan” and its “Most Devoted Cubs Fan.” If you went by height, the former is easily true. But as for the latter, Dallas concurs that any of those Cub fans recently profiled here, and others, would share that honour. Kilponen notes that he is thrilled that the article has connected him to so many other Chicago Cubs supporters in Australia.
At over 1.9m (6’3”), Mr Kilponen is an imposing figure. But soon enough he smiles with a twinkle in his eye that is infectious. He’s the guy you want to settle back with to talk about baseball over a beer, or even the state of the world. He’s also the guy you want watching your back, if after that drink, you have to walk home through a sketchy neighbourhood. Throw in the fact that for around twenty-five years he was a photojournalist for The Sydney Morning Herald, covering event like the Olympics, NRL, AFL, and the MLB Opening Series in Sydney…well you have a real Aussie all-rounder to spend some time with.
And spend time together we did, on our feet continuously from midday to 11pm, in a venerable Chicago watering hole called Murphy’s Bleachers. While a number of Aussies like Paul Wilkins, Dan Nancarro, and ABL contest winner Joel Hiscox had tickets for game three, Dallas joined this writer, ABL communication manager Nina Zimmerman, and Aussie Hearts baseballer and “A League of Their Own” actor Patti Pelton at Murhpy’s. The venue is located behind the centerfield scoreboard and right next to the Fox Sports broadcast centre. Famous Cub fan and actor John Cusak viewed part of the game at Murphy’s, as did Joel Murray whose brother Bill also stopped by briefly before later singing the 7th inning stretch for the Wrigley faithful. Eddie Vedder is also a famous regular at Murphy’s.
For Dallas, besides watching the game in such an iconic Wrigleyville location, it was also a great chance make new Cub connections. Highlights included meeting up with a friend he has chatted online about the Cubs with for years but never met, as well as having a chat to the high school coaches of N.L. MVP favourite Kris Bryant while the young legend was batting onscreen.
With a passion for yachting, Kilponen originally became a Cubs fan when in town covering the Chicago Yacht Club’s annual race to Macknac Island in 2006. Through the race he met a 40-year season ticket-holder who invited him to a game. “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Wrigley field. Plus the connection between the fans and the team really take it to another level- wholesome, respectful, all-around good values. It all seems to reflect the city of Chicago and values I admire in life and in people. My support for the Cubs was then set in stone quote for the rest of my life.”
Dallas has been a lover of baseball since childhood, playing in school and as an adult for the Manly Baseball Club outside Sydney. He has followed MLB since the 1980s, due in part to cricketer Ian Chapell’s love of baseball. But he had not connected to a team until that fateful day in 2006. Since then he has seen eleven more games at Wrigley Field in six further visits to Chicago, plus a second visit this year to soak up the first World Series games played at Wrigley Field since 1945.
How did you watch World Series Game Three: “Even though the Cubs lost 1-0, last night as a fan was one the greatest sporting experiences that I’ve experienced with a whole lot of people in one area, it was magical. The feeling throughout the crowded streets, inside Murphy’s Bleachers, was just incredible. Didn’t believe it was possible, but I’ll walk away loving the Cubs that much more now…It was hard to comprehend that the Cubs were in the World Series, and that I was there. To having gone from watching on the couch by myself last weekend to being surrounded by a mob of passionate fans like me, it was one of the best experiences of my life.” –Dallas Kilponen
Author’s Note: The high school coaches of young legend Kris Bryant made the trek all the way from Las Vegas to watch the game at Murphy’s. Derek Stafford and Matt Estrada reminisced about their friend from back home, Chad Robinson, and his experiences pitching for the Perth Heat in the ABL.
Game Four Profile: Chicago Cubs Hitting Coach John Mallee reaches out to an Aussie baseball fan who could not make the trip to the World Series due to medical circumstances.
October 25-26, 2016- Back to Chicago for WS Games One & Two
Funny thing going through US Customs at LAX airport on Tuesday, I bumped into two other Aussie Chicago Cubs fans on their way to the World Series- Paul Wilkins of Melbourne and Dan Nancarrow of Brisbane. Both now have been featured in our blog about Aussies at the World Series on the Australian Baseball League’s website. Can’t wait to have a few beers with them at Murphy’s Bleachers before Game Three on Friday in Chicago.
Taking off on my connecting flight from LA to Chicago, had a chance to exchange a few texts with the Cubs hitting coach John Mallee at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Twenty-one years ago he coached my very first international touring baseball team to a win in Beijing, China. At that point our lives then diverged, mine to Australia and his to coach professionally in the minor leagues. Forget baseball, am grateful for his friendship that has stayed strong as our lives have gone through thick and thin. Seeing him in the World Series with the team that both our fathers taught us to cheer for, well that is the icing on the cake.
Getting into Chicago, seeing the familiar places, traveling to my parent’s house with my sister Heather and arriving within minutes of the first pitch of Game One…well it was all a bit of a blur. And the Cubs lost. Though Kluber was dealing for the Indians and the Cubs were still “selectively aggressive,”meaning they patiently stuck to the hitting approach that allowed them to set a record for most walks of any Cubs team since their inception in 1876.
My brother Scott pointed out that walk statistic on Wednesday, when the Cubs used the same approach this time to achieve a 5-1 victory in Game Two. But more importantly, when Scott arrived for a visit with his family from Germany…finally for the first time in many, many years my parents would have all three children sleep under their roof again. It was surreal, and very subtly one of the better nights of my life.
That is the power of sport to create shared, passionate memories that help bind us together.
October 25, 2016- Leaving Melbourne for Chicago
Last Sunday as the Cubs punched their ticket to the World Series against Kershaw in NLCS Game Six, I had so many emotions as someone who grew up in a family of Cub fans near Chicago:
Astonishment that such a thing had occurred. Joy that both my parents were alive, and also that I had watched the clinching game with my children as they held balls signed by their current heroes Ben Zobrist and John Mallee. Sadness that I might not be there to share the World Series moment with my parents, sister, and my brother visiting from Germany. And also frustration that a strict parenting schedule would have my children at their mother’s house next weekend when we might watch the WS games live from Wrigley Field.
So I looked at airfares—which were cheap—and I booked a flight home to Chicago. That was Sunday, and my children—ages 7 & 4—were supportive, they intuitively understand how special visits home are for me. They really like being there too, and had just been with me for three weeks in September. Though Tuesday at 7am as I left for the airport, I was still a bit uncertain about the expense and time missed with my children. But plans had been made.
On the plane I was seated next to a lovely older Australian couple who were visiting America for the first time and going to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. As it turned out, of all the dozens and dozens of hotels near Disney that they could stay at…they were booked into the very same property that Simone Wearne and I use for all our Aussie Sparks youth softball and baseball tours to that area. An incredible statistical improbability. As my friend Sue Reid might assure me, I could relax and know that I was on the exact path I was meant to be on.
October 25- Paul Wilkins arrives from Melbourne to Los Angeles International Airport, about to catch connecting flight to Chicago. Photo by Robert Novotny
Aussies at the MLB World Series- Game One Profile
By Robert Novotny, under special arrangement with the ABL
Name: Paul Wilkins
From: Balywn in Melbourne, Victoria
Supports in ABL: Melbourne Aces, Foundation Member
Supports in MLB: Chicago Cubs
Currently Holding MLB World Series Tickets?: No
Backstory: Paul booked his flights to Chicago shortly after the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series over All-Star pitcher Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6. After spending two months in Chicago this year from July to September, Paul’s bed in a Chicago-area friend’s spare room is still warm. Paul attended sixteen Cubs games in person this season, primarily at Wrigley Field as well as Houston, Milwaukee, Oakland, St. Louis, and Chicago’s US Cellular Field where the American League Chicago White Sox play.
Wilkins first became a Cub fan in 2007 when he was in Chicago for a work conference. At the time he considered backing the Chicago White Sox who were still fresh off their 2005 MLB World Series title, “but I was drawn to the underdog story and decided to go for the Cubs,” Wilkins shared. His first game at Wrigley Field was Opening Day in 2008 when he happened to sit in a few rows from Pearl Jam lead singer and Cubs die-hard fan Eddie Vedder.
From there Wilkins took a trip to see the Cubs in Chicago almost every year, making close friends while sitting in the outfield bleachers. Many of those friends he considers to be among his best mates. Paul’s two-month visit to Chicago earlier this year included the opportunity to stand up as a groomsman in one such friend’s wedding. Another highlight of the visit was attending a luncheon with Cub’s front office brain-trust Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Not originally a big baseball fan, Paul’s affinity for the Chicago Cubs inspired him to become a Foundation Member of the Melbourne Aces from when the ABL relaunched in 2010.
How will you watch World Series Game One: “Going to get together with some good Chicago friends I have come to know on my visits to see the Cubs over the years…in some ways I don’t feel like I even deserve a World Series ticket[when the Series shifts back to Chicago for Game Three]considering how many people in Chicago have been waiting a lifetime…for me it is all about being in Chicago to soak up a moment that means so much to the city and sharing it with my best mates here.” –Paul Wilkins
Author’s Note: The Chicago Cubs have not participated in the MLB World Series since 1945, not winning it since 1908. The Cleveland Indians have not participated since 1997, not winning since 1948.
Game Two Profile: Dan Nancarrow of Brisbane, a Chicago Cubs fan in Cleveland for Game Two