Drivin' south

Cubs Clevenger, Bowden visit kids at Hope Hospital

By Tara McManus

The Chicago Cubs haven’t given their fans much to cheer about this year as the team’s management attempts to rebuild the franchise from the ground up, but two North Siders on Tuesday brought smiles to the faces of children being treated at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Cubs’ pitcher Michael Bowden and catcher Steve Clevenger were in town to meet the pediatric patients as well as their parents and siblings. The players visited many of the patients in a conference room, and went from room to room to see patients who couldn’t be moved. Bowden and Clevenger visited between 25 and 30 children ranging from toddlers to 18-year-olds.

Each of the children received a Cubs hat autographed by Bowden and Clevenger. The battery also signed extra caps for the hospital to give to other patients.

“It helps a lot. The kids were really looking forward to it. They just found out yesterday [that the Cubs were coming],” said Julie Nakis, public affairs and marketing specialist for Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Even White Sox fans enjoyed the visit. Zaid Shareef, 18, of Worth, wore his new Cubs hat in place of his Sox cap while talking to Bowden and Clevenger about his college plans.

Clevenger said the Cubs were happy to visit the South Side.

“It’s about the kids, not about sides,” Clevenger said. “Chicago gives us so much. It’s great to give back to the community. There’s Cubs fans everywhere. There were a lot here.”

Mary Lynn Sztuba had brought her daughter, Katelynn, to a doctor’s appointment at Hope when they saw the Cubs players in the lobby and asked for a picture.

“Katelynn wanted a picture, so we asked. I already called my husband and told him we ran into Chicago Cubs,” Sztuba said.

A nurse gave Katelynn an autographed cap to wear in the picture. Katelynn asked if she could keep it and broke into a smile when Bowden told her yes.

Barbara Perino, vice president of Hope Children’s Hospital, stopped by for a picture with Bowden and Clevenger. Employees said Perino is a huge Cubs fan.

Bowden and Clevenger stopped in before leaving to prepare for Tuesday night’s home game against the Milwaukee Brewers, which the Cubs lost 4-1. Bowden, in his second stint with the Cubs, was called up from Triple-A Iowa Aug. 13. He recorded two saves and posted a 2.76 ERA in 23 relief appearances for Iowa this season. He has struck out 35 batters and allowed two home runs in 32.2 innings.

Clevenger became the Cub’s starting catcher after Geovany Soto was traded to the Texas Rangers July 30. Clevenger has three home runs and 15 RBI this season.