RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In Florida and Arizona, it is a rite of spring for Major League Baseball teams and their fans. Spring training kicked off this weekend. Now, each club has its loyal followers, but arguably among the most diehard root for the team from the North Side of Chicago. The Chicago Cubs continually sell out games, even though the team hasn't won a World Series since 1908. Nick Blumberg from member station KJZZ in Phoenix talked to some fans at the team's first spring training game of the year.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NICK BLUMBERG, BYLINE: I should probably say from the get-go that I am a Cubs fan. That's not always easy to admit when your team finished its last season with 61 wins and 101 losses. But I was in good company Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, where plenty of Cubs fans had gathered to watch their team take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Linda and Chris Kious live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. It was their first spring training game.
LINDA KIOUS: My son has gone every year to opening day, for the last, I don't know, quite a while.
BLUMBERG: So, you raised him as a Cubs fan?
KIOUS: Oh, all my children are Cubs fans.
BLUMBERG: And they're still talking to you even though you did that?
KIOUS: Yeah, they are.
CHRIS KIOUS: It's a terrible thing, but they bought into it.
KIOUS: They bought in.
BLUMBERG: Fifteen teams play in Arizona's cactus league, including that other Chicago team, the White Sox, plus the Dodgers, the Giants, and the Brewers. It's a big draw for fans from around the country and those who live in Phoenix, like Shawn Nelson. He got indoctrinated into our odd little club because the Cubs were always on TV in the early days of cable. Shawn and his wife Flora were sitting on the sun-drenched lawn of the park with their daughters Megan, who's almost one, and Holly, who's almost three.
FLORA NELSON: Tell them what your dog's name is.
HOLLY NELSON: Cubbie.
SHAWN NELSON: That's right. I punish my dog too.
BLUMBERG: Cubbie the dog may be ignominiously named now, but plenty in the ever-hopeful legion of fans think things are moving in the right direction. They've got high hopes for team president Theo Epstein. He helped end the World Series drought in Boston, and fans want to see him do the same for the Cubs.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Leading off for the Cubs, second baseman number 74...
BLUMBERG: John Murray has lived in Arizona for ten years, but he's originally from Chicago.
JOHN MURRAY: That's why I drink heavily. I'm a lifelong Cubs fan.
BLUMBERG: So, what are your hopes for the team this year?
MURRAY: Well, my hopes are real good, but they're rebuilding, so I think it's going to be another year or two before they really contend. But I think they'll be entertaining if nothing else.
BLUMBERG: The Cubs were more than just entertaining at Saturday's opener - they won 11-2, though the Angels didn't play many of their stars. But that's OK. Cubs fans are always just happy to get a win. For NPR News, I'm Nick Blumberg in Tempe, Arizona.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "LOVE IS LIKE A BASEBALL GAME")
THE INTRUDERS: (Singing) Love is just like a baseball game, three strikes, you're out.
MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.