Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 7:46 p.m.
Alfonso Soriano brought Chicago Cubs fans to their feet during his first at-bat on Wednesday.
He drove a pitch to the wall, and the Cubs faithful hollered as they watched the fly ball sail to the warning track. White Sox fans shouted back as the ball was caught just short of the fence.
Soriano’s drive was just the start of an old-school rivalry making its way to Las Vegas. Neither team’s fans stayed quiet for long during the two sold-out Cubs-Sox games at Cashman Field. A big crowd, chilly weather Wednesday night, and rowdy fans made the spring training contest feel a little like Chicago for the cross-town rivals.
“Everywhere I go, I see 40 percent or 30 percent of the fans are Chicago Cubs, so it's not only in Vegas,” Soriano said. “Everywhere we go, I feel like we're home."
Just like Soriano’s fly ball came up a few feet short of the outfield wall, the Cubs’ efforts to leave Vegas on top came up empty, as the Sox won 7-6 Wednesday and 4-3 Thursday.
But two spring training losses by the Cubs didn’t seem to bother local fans.
“There are a lot of Cubs fans all over the country,” Cubs Manager Lou Piniella said. “Wherever we go, in these different cities, there are Cubs fans.”
Cubs fans had a slight edge, but the White Sox faithful made their presence felt. Even though it’s a spring training game, players knew not to discount the rivalry of playing the other team from Chicago.
“We don’t want to lose,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I guarantee that.
“(Fans) don’t want to lose, especially when we play the Cubs. That is the last time they want to lose.”
Fans made more of the rivalry than the players, but with a full house to see both games, neither team wanted to disappoint.
"I don't think in spring training it's as big, but obviously the fans are still into it, and they live or die with these games,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “I had a bunch of fans tell me it means a lot to win these games.”
After two days of back-and-forth jabbering between Cubs and Sox fans, the South-side faithful celebrated their victories with chants all the way to the parking lot.
Sure, it’s just spring training, but against the Cubs, every win matters.
“I think there are going to be a lot of White Sox fans out in the casinos today, and they are going to be a little loud,” Guillen said. “That's the way they are, that's they way both sides are.”