Cubs want Shaka Smart to sing at game
The Chicago Cubs plan to reach out to VCU coach Shaka Smart and Butler coach Brad Stevens after the NCAA tournament to invite them to sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field.
For Smart, the experience likely will tug at his heartstrings as he remembers the times his grandfather, Walter King, took him to Wrigley as a child. Smart said that King, who is reportedly hospitalized in Chicago with failing kidneys, may be in his last days.
"My grandfather unfortunately is probably in his last days with us," Smart said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "But some of my fondest memories with him are going to Wrigley Field, sitting on the first base side trying to catch some foul balls."
Those memories made Chicago feel like a second home to Smart, who is from Madison, Wis.
"Chicago is my favorite city in the whole country, and I've spent a lot of time in the city of Chicago as a kid," Smart said. "It was kind of a second home for me.
"I'm a big Cubs fan, probably been to -- conservatively -- 50-60 Cubs games over the years. I once caught a Ryne Sandberg foul ball at my grandfather's feet. So I'm a big Cubbies fan."
Smart and Stevens face off in an NCAA semifinal on Saturday, and Smart is under the impression he may have to win to earn an invite to throw out a first pitch or sing at Wrigley.
"I would never turn that opportunity down, but I think we have to win a little bit more to get that offer," he said. "I would love to do it. I love Wrigley, there's no place I'd rather be to watch a ballgame."
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Cubs spokesman Peter Chase told ESPNChicago.com that Smart already has earned the invitation, and for Stevens, it will be an encore performance after singing last year following a NCAA title game appearance for the Bulldogs.
"We are aware of Coach Smart's love for the Cubs and plan to reach out to him after the tournament," Chase said. "VCU alum [and Cubs reliever] Sean Marshall has been keeping in touch with the athletic department as well.
"It will be cool to see two Cubs fan coaches face off in the Final Four on Saturday, as Butler Coach Brad Stevens is a Cubs fan as well."
The Cubs won't have to wait long for Smart's answer.
"Well I will be there if I get the invite," Smart said. "You can book that."