Jude Wimbiscus was among about 350 fans who stood in line while waiting for Chicago Cubs’ tickets vs. the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. It’s the Cubs first appearance in Fort Myers against the Red Sox. Craig Handel
When the chance came for Jim Wimbiscus to take wife Jude to another ballpark to see their beloved Chicago Cubs, he told her, “We gotta be there.”
Jim, 80, was ailing so Jude drove from Naples and arrived at Jet Blue Park Saturday morning.
“I’m No. 169,” she said.
Jude Wimbiscus was joined by almost 350 fans who waited in line for spring-training tickets by the time the ticket gate opened at 10 a.m.
About 130 people received wristbands at 3:30 a.m., or more than twice the number from last year, according to Derek DeArmond, who regularly arrives early so he can be the first in line.
The Cubs coming to town for games March 26 and 27 had a lot to do with that. Chicago has never played the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers. The Cubs last played in Fort Myers on March 30, 1997, when they played the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium as a final tuneup before opening that season at the Florida Marlins.
This year the Cubs also will open at against the Marlins. The anchor of Cactus League Baseball in Arizona, Chicago hasn’t claimed a Florida home for spring training since being based in Tampa in 1913-16.
A few years ago, the Cubs considered moving to Naples for spring training. That got Jude and Jim Wimbiscus excited. “We have a shirt – ‘Bring the Cubs to Naples’ ” – Jude said.
Jim has made 56 consecutive Cubs games for Opening Day. He attended his first in 1946. Only a stint in the Army broke the streak.
Jude married Jim in 1965 and they’ve been to 32 ballparks together.
“We saw two World Series games,” Jude said. “We called the kids and said, ‘Get tickets for us.’ We went to Cleveland for Game 1. Our children came from Louisiana and Ohio to watch us go to Game 4. When they won Game 5, my son called from Atlanta and said, ‘Dad, don’t go to Cleveland, you’re not helping them.' ”
Another couple who love the Cubs are Beth and Mario Irizarry. They recently moved to Cape Coral.
Mario grew up across the street from Wrigley Field. A ball hawk who would chase home runs hit on Waveland Avenue, Mario met Beth on that street. They’ve been married for 21 years.
“It was a thrill, I couldn’t believe (the Cubs will play here),” he said. “I called my wife and said, ‘We have to get extras for friends.' ”
They said they have an extra bedroom, sofa sleeper and air mattress. “We’ll be like old hippies hanging around the house,” he said.
Also in line were Lehigh Acres’ Carl Alden, Fort Myers’ Paul Reeger and Pine Island’s Ron Bokros.
Alden arrivedwith neighbor friend Tom Powers, who told him about the games. Reeger, a bleacher bum who had gone to 22 consecutive Cubs games, will attend with his brother who lives in Daytona.
Bokros, who has been a fan for 75 years going back to his days of listening to games in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said Chicago winning the 2016 World Series was worth all the heart ache in previous seasons.
“My life is complete in sports,” he said. “I can go to heaven.
“I saw them win the World Series. It’s phenomenal. That’s the way most Cubbies fans feel.”