Passan’s story stands out after his trip to the bleachers

Wearing a dress shirt and tie where everybody else dons Cubs jerseys, Jeff Passan didn’t exactly blend in with the fans in the Wrigley Field bleachers. After all, he never expected to be there when he went to work Monday.

But the bleachers — and the people in those jerseys — provided an opportunity for Passan to tell a story that differentiated from those of his peers.

The Cubs bashed a record six home runs in their Game 3 NLDS win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The storyline for any journalist was easy. Passan, who writes columns for Yahoo! Sports tried something different.

“You can write about the six home runs, which everyone did. Or you can cover the six home runs with a twist,” Passan said Friday evening as he drove from his Kansas City home to Kauffman Stadium for Game 1 of the ALCS.


Passan’s twist was interviewing the fans who caught Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo‘s back-to-back, fifth-inning home run balls — the Cubs’ third and fourth homers of the day. The idea came from a Yahoo! blog editor named Kevin Kaduk. Passan watched replays of the home runs five times apiece and then left the press box to find the landing spots.

As Passan interviewed the man with Bryant’s home run, Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler hit another one in the sixth.

A new story emerged. “I gotta find all of them,” Passan thought.

He went across the bleachers to get the guy in right field who caught Rizzo’s. Then he found the keepers of the shots from Soler, Starlin Castro and Kyle Schwarber.

Surrounding fans shouted “Don’t give it to them!” and “Get tickets to the World Series!” — they thought the overly dressed Passan was a Cubs representative asking for the balls — while Passan asked each ball-bearing fan the same set of questions.

Did you actually catch it, or what was the story behind it ending in your hands? How long have you been a Cubs fan? How deep does your fandom go? Is this the year?

As Passan headed back up to the press box, Dexter Fowler added a sixth home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. One more lucky fan to interview.

After the game ended, Passan went to the Cubs’ clubhouse to chat with players. He’s typically the last reporter out of the clubhouse because, as he said, “The best work can be done when the fewest people are there.”

Or, it turns out, when the most people are there — so long as you’re in the bleachers and the nearby people aren’t other journalists. Leaving the press box is a way to find a different story than the pack. In 2012, Passan made a similar move for a quite different story documenting the emptiness of Yankee Stadium.

“You have to take advantage of things like that,” Passan said.

Taking advantage of Yahoo!’s soft deadline, Passan wrote his Cubs story in three hours and settled on a chronological telling.

It turned out poignant and memorable. And certainly distinctive.

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