or one day, Stephanie Duchaine got a little taste of Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery’s world, specifically his team’s I-94 rivalry with the Brewers, when she and other players’ wives, fiancees and girlfriends took on their Milwaukee counterparts in a charity softball game Tuesday at Helfaer Field in Milwaukee.
And by “rivalry,” we mean the Brewers band won easily, 10-3, with both teams’ male contingent and family members watching.
“Especially in Milwaukee, we wanted to be competitive, so we definitely felt the nerves,” said Duchaine, who is Montgomery’s girlfriend and played first base. “In the end, it’s for a great cause so you can’t be too nervous about it.”
The first-ever Brewers-Cubs Wives Softball Challenge, played in the shadow of Miller Park, raised money for MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), which promotes the game to teens and funds baseball fields in disadvantaged areas. Last week, Cubs Charities launched 28 RBI teams and nine softball teams.
Proceeds from tickets to the softball game will be split between the teams.
Still, good cause or not, this one stung.
It was evident from each crisp throw from a Brewers infielder to first base to put out a Cubs representative that the hosts may have a ringer or two. Eric Sogard’s wife played softball at Arizona State.
Brewers-Cubs Wives Softball Challenge
The wives and girlfriends of Cubs and Brewers players play in a charity softball game at Helfaer Field in Milwaukee on June 12, 2018. (John J. Kim)
“The Brewers wives were pretty good so we have some work to do,” Montgomery said. “They were making plays, diving plays and picking the ball. Everything we hit, we’re like, ‘That’s going to be a hit.’ Nope. They just made a good play on it. That was real fun.”
Albert Almora Jr.’s wife, Krystal, already was thinking about a revenge game.
“Like that last inning, (I was thinking) ‘This isn’t over!’ ” she said. “This is going to happen again next year, and we’re going to come back and give it our all.”
Duchaine has seen the other side of it, too, when the Cubs lose to the Brewers in a baseball game, though this season they were up 8-1 in the series entering Tuesday night’s game.
“I think with the Brewers, or with any team, that loss really hurt. But then on the other side, that’s what make those close wins or those good wins even better,” she said. “… Mike has said many times it’s those losses when you get walked off, you lose to a big rival or whatever, that really make you appreciate that 14th-inning win, you scored seven runs and you get out of there.”
But this was a day for role reversal. Montgomery joined Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Steve Cishek and others who wore T-shirts with emoji-style pictures of players on their side and cheered them on from the stands and the dugout.
Krystal Almora, Stephanie Duchaine and others react to the charity game between the Cubs and Brewers wives and girlfriend at Helfaer Field in Milwaukee on June 12, 2018. (Phil Thompson/Chicago Tribune)
The Cubs team used this lineup against their Brewers counterparts. (Phil Thompson / Chicago Tribune)
“Somebody get that on camera, film them,” Krystal Almora quipped. “I don’t think we’ll ever see that again when they’re wearing us on their shirts. Pretty awesome feeling.”
Bryant stood beside his wife, Jessica, as she coached (she’s still recovering from knee surgery). After the game, Julianna Zobrist signed autographs for kids while husband Ben looked on.
Cubs Charities executive director Alicia Gonzalez said the athleticism the wives put on display to help a charity likely made an impression on young women.
“I know right now at around age 14 most girls are dropping out of youth sports two times more than boys,” she said, a statistic research from the Women’s Sports Foundation supports. “I think it’s access and also social stigma. And I think for them to be inspired by these ladies, see that they can do it, roll up their sleeves and get out there and play ball, then other young ladies across our country can do it, too.”
The Cubs wives are also talking to other teams’ wives about playing charity games with them, Gonzalez said. Cubs-Cardinals, anyone?
That’s not to say it was all a breeze — that, in fact, was in short supply in the stifling noonday sun.
Duchaine said, “I have so much more appreciation for what our guys do every day. By the fifth inning I went, ‘What inning is it?’ I’m getting fatigued.”
She added the women also worried about living up to their Cubs counterparts’ game or simply not embarrassing them.
“If we miss anything, they know. … At the plate. I couldn’t go 0-fer. That was my main (concern), like, I wanted to make the plays at first for sure, but I also wanted to get on base.”
Montgomery said she did well. “Last couple off days we’ve had, she was really into it. They had a practice at Wrigley a couple of days ago and everyone seemed to want to do well.”
It took some time to get the Cubs group to get up to speed, they admitted. For example, it took three practices with some of the RBI coaches for Duchaine to figure out she didn’t have the arm to play third base, her original position.
“We had to piece it together over time,” she said. “I think once we got into our flow we all have our strengths. … I’m proud of myself. I feel like I held it down over at first.”