Nomar 'nervous' in his opener in Chicago

Updated: August 2, 2004, 10:13 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Nomar Garciaparra looked a bit odd in a different uniform, especially with a big blue and red "C" across his chest.

It didn't take him long, however, to feel at home.

Nomar Garciaparra
Garciaparra

Less than 24 hours after changing teams, leagues and addresses, Garciaparra got his first look at Wrigley Field and an earful from nearly 40,000 grateful fans.

They cheered him Sunday in batting practice -- and he made new friends quickly by signing autographs for five minutes. They gave him ovations during stretching, during pregame introductions and every at-bat.

And when the five-time All-Star came to the plate in the middle of a big seventh-inning rally Sunday, a thunderous chant of "NOMAR! NOMAR!" came ringing from every corner of the old stadium.

"The ovation I got, things like that you'll never forget," Garciaparra said. "That stuff stays with your heart."

Garciaparra's first game with the Chicago Cubs since a blockbuster trade from Boston turned into a winner, even if Greg Maddux left before a rally and was denied his 300th victory.

Garciaparra grounded into a double play in the first but he had an RBI single in the seventh and made two good defensive plays, including a nifty catch of a popup in the ninth.

"We're glad we got him on our team. Nomar has been one of the best shortstops in the game for a while now," said Maddux, who wound up with a no-decision in the Cubs' 6-3 victory.

"You change teams for the first time and it's tough. It takes a while to adjust."

Garciaparra's wife, soccer star Mia Hamm, spent Sunday with her U.S. Olympic teammates in Connecticut for an exhibition game against China. She scored a goal and set up two others in a 3-1 victory, the team's final tuneup before the Olympics. Garciaparra said Hamm took the trade news in stride.

"She's an amazing person," he said. "She said, `Hey, just tell me where we're going to be when I get back from Greece."'

When the Red Sox tried during the offseason to get Alex Rodriguez from Texas to play shortstop, Garciaparra would have been shipped out, but the deal didn't come together.

After he stayed with the Red Sox, Garciaparra's feelings were hurt, especially since he'd spent his entire career with Boston, starting with the 1996 season.

"There was definitely some sadness last night. When you hear the news you get over that," Garciaparra said.

"I was talking upon leaving that the sadness would probably hit you later on and it definitely did because it's hard for anybody when you spend 10 years in one place and you set your home there."

Garciaparra, whose contract expires after this season, rejected a $60 million, four-year extension from the Red Sox last winter.

Would he consider signing long term with the Cubs?

"I haven't even thought about it, contract or anything," he said.

"It hasn't even entered my mind. Right now I'm dealing with this trade and getting acclimated here. I think that is first."

He won't hear the adulation from Cubs fans for a week because now the team heads out on the road to Colorado and San Francisco.

He'll have to learn different parks -- his ninth-inning catch Sunday was in the bullpen along the left field line, something he's not used to -- and figure out pitchers he hasn't seen.

But for one day at least, the transition didn't appear to be difficult. His new teammates and a victory took care of that.

"With all of the emotion that I was feeling and going through to be welcomed by them and joking around and making me feel comfortable, it makes it easier to go out there and just play," he said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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