Chapman’s past challenging to die-hard Cubs fans

601352302There it was. The dreaded scenario playing out right in front of her eyes. With her beloved Cubs five outs away from the World Series, in came Aroldis Chapman.

Sarah Spain of ESPN was critical of the Cubs trading for Chapman, who was suspended for the first 30 games of the season by Major League Baseball for an incident in 2015 when his girlfriend said he pushed her against a wall, choked her, and fired eight shots from his gun in the garage while she hid in the bushes, according to the police report.

And now, in the moment she and millions of Cubs fans have been waiting for their entire lives, and Chapman on the mound, she sat on her hands.

“It’s exactly what I was least hoping for,” Spain said. “I’ve made a practice this year to not cheer for him.”

The Cubs traded for Chapman in July, and while there is no denying the quality of the deal from a baseball perspective, the acquisition has challenged the consciences of even the most devout Cubs fans amidst a historic run.

“It’s a hard thing because we as fans bury our heads in the sand when it comes to issues like this,” said Megan Judkins, who says she cheers a little less if Chapman is on the mound. “As a woman and sports fan I feel the conflict … There’s a pit in my stomach when he’s out there.”

On the field, Chapman has been as advertised for the Cubs in the playoffs, with 14 strikeouts in 10.1 innings pitched.  But some see him as a sore thumb on a team built around character.

“I don’t want to support anyone who abuses their wife or girlfriend, “said Courtney Lessner, a Cubs fan who was cautious about her excitement when Chapman was brought in. “But I can’t turn my back on a team I’ve loved my entire life when 99 percent of them are class acts.”

Fans struggling to reconcile their feelings about Chapman with seeing their team in the World Series for the first time in 71 years is not surprising, given that on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This equates to more than 10 million women and men per year.

That was the troubling dilemma that led to the #pitchin4dv campaign, started by Caitlin Swieca (who could not be reached for comment), a Cubs fan who decided to donate $10 for every save Chapman made. Her intention when she first posted the idea to Twitter was to raise $11,000 for the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic of Chicago, but that goal was reached so quickly it was raised twice before it reached its current World Series goal of $25,000.

“I’m just like a lot of Cubs fans that are conflicted with having Chapman on the team,” said Phillip Santos, a civil engineer who has donated over $200 to the House of the Good Shephard in Wrigleyville. “This is a really good idea to try to bring awareness of domestic violence and help victims while still being able to cheer on my team.”

As of Sunday before the start of Game 5, the campaign had raised $22,956, but fans aren’t stopping there. Elizabeth Meyer, an attorney from Chicago, auctioned off all her Cubs gear and donated the proceeds.

“Seeing the number of people in Chicago who know what’s going on and let it go because he can throw 104 [mph], that bothers me,” said Meyer, who has donated over $400 to the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and stopped watching the Cubs.

But Santos, who has been a Cubs fan since his aunt brought him to his first game when he was 18 months old, couldn’t imagine doing such a thing.

“I can’t drop the team I’ve been rooting for since I was a kid,” said Santos. “I figured this was a really good way to make lemonade out of lemons.”