CHICAGO – Ryan Court’s first hit at Wrigley Field didn’t come as a member of the Cubs, as he might have hoped.
Court’s single to left field Tuesday night came for the Seattle Mariners against the Cubs. It was Court’s fifth career hit, and it may have been noted by friends and family.
That didn’t stop Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo from making a grand gesture. Rizzo motioned for the baseball and had it tossed into the Mariners’ dugout for Court to have as a keepsake.
“I remember the story from a couple years ago, about him growing up here, and he’s had a long journey,” Rizzo said after the game. “It’s a big deal. Growing up here a Cubs fan, you get a hit, I really feel you want to save that. You’re happy, such a long journey like that.”
The journey for the 31-year-old Court at times was bumpier than a bus ride in Double-A ball. The native of Elgin and graduate of Dundee-Crown High School was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 23rd round of the 2011 draft.
He bounced from places such as Missoula, South Bend and Sioux City in independent ball to spring training with the Cubs in 2018, when it finally looked as if he would get a shot with his hometown team.
But a slow start at Triple-A Iowa kept him in the minor leagues while others were called up.
Court tried it again with the Cubs this spring, but he was released in March, and it was back to independent ball, this time with the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
The Mariners purchased his contract early this season and assigned him to Triple-A Tacoma. He made his major league debut July 26, got his first two big-league hits the next day and his first homer Aug. 9. After going back to Tacoma, Court was a September call-up.
This week, he found himself at Wrigley Field, where he got a start in left field Tuesday in front of his mom and too many other friends and family even for him to count.
“Oh, it was great,” he said. “It was obviously very exciting, having friends and family here. I can’t say enough about the Cubs organization for giving me that opportunity to be in big-league camp first and the Mariners for giving me an opportunity to be in the big leagues. It was awesome.”
His mom, Anita, was at Wrigley Field this week. She also attended his major league debut.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s so exciting. It’s wonderful to see his dream come true, to be playing in the major leagues.
“Between the tears, seriously, and his first real start, he got a couple hits and he played really well, it was just overwhelming. I was just crying and so happy for him.”
Court admitted to getting caught up in the emotion of his debut in July, but only for a moment.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “When I went up (to bat), it was obviously exciting, but it was in the ninth inning of a tie game. The pitching coach for the other team (the Tigers) went out. They put it up on the scoreboard that it was my first at-bat.
“The people in the stands realized it, and standing ovation. So it was kind of one of those special moments where you’ve got to pinch yourself. It’s like, ‘Hey, you made it. You did it.’ And then it was time to go to work.”
Of course, the natural question to ask is if Court had thought of quitting at any point along the way, especially when his option was Sugar Land while on the wrong side of 30.
“It passes through sometimes,” he said. “I’m working hard. It’s been year after year. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? But I never gave up. If I would have thought about quitting, I would have quit. I’m here, and on Wrigley Field getting a start.”
Mom, however, knew quitting was not an option.
“Always remained confident because how persistent he was and what he did,” Anita Court said. “At times when I would think he would want to put it down, he never wanted to put it down. He never wanted to put it down.”
After Court took batting practice Tuesday, he made the rounds of friends, family and a couple of reporters before heading back into the Mariners’ clubhouse to prepare for a big-league start at Wrigley Field.
He thought of others ahead of himself.
“It’s been an overwhelming amount of support, but it’s good,” he said. “I think it’s cool that this opportunity has brought enjoyment for other people as well, people who have been through the grind with me and all that stuff. The fact that they’re able to enjoy this moment with me, it’s more than just about me.”