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Cubs Connections Making World Series Special for Vikings Sugarman

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Eric Sugarman can pull for one Chicago team this weekend.

The Vikings (5-1) are scheduled to arrive in Chicago for their Monday Night Football game against the Bears (1-6) before today's Game 5 of the World Series between the Indians and Cubs.

Sugarman, who worked in the Cubs organization in 1996, has a couple of unique ties that have him attentively watching the Cubs' bid to win their first World Series since 1908.

The Vikings Director of Sports Medicine and Certified Head Athletic Trainer is from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and attended the same high school as Cubs Manager Joe Maddon.

What's more, they've both enjoyed meals served up by Maddon's mother, "Beanie," who works as a waitress at 3rd Base Lunch across the street from the school. Sugarman ordered lunch daily from 3rd Base Lunch beginning in seventh grade when he also began working as a student athletic trainer.

"Sandwiches, hoagies, burgers, real simple, phenomenal, and food I crave all the time," Sugarman said.

Ironically, Sugarman first met Joe Maddon a little further from their hometown in the Poconos. Sugarman and his father were walking through Monument Park at the original Yankee Stadium before the Angels played the Yankees. Maddon was in his 30-year tenure with the Angels at the time and connected with the Sugarmans before the game. Sugarman has kept tabs on Maddon's career since.


"He is fun to watch because he seems very level headed, but you know, I've talked to their athletic trainers and people that have been around him, and he is what you think he would be," Sugarman said. "He's kind of a fun, unique guy with a different perspective.

"People kind of looked at him crooked when he first started," Sugarman added. "Baseball is very traditional, and he's a non-traditional guy and does non-traditional things. I don't think anyone can question what he does because he's had an unbelievable amount of success."

Twenty years ago, Sugarman was interning with the Bears medical staff when he was offered a job with the Cubs to help with rehabilitation work at the minor league level. He worked in Fort Myers, Florida, and Tempe, Arizona, helping out Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa return to the big leagues and crossing paths with Kerry Wood on the pitcher's rise to the show.

While with the Cubs, Sugarman roomed with Lester Strode, the Cubs longest-tenured coach. Strode was a minor league pitching coach and is now the bullpen coach.

"You can see Lester on TV all of the time when they are showing guys warming up," Sugarman said. "He's the guy standing with the book. During the summer, we went to go see a Cubs game, and I was lucky enough to go on the field before the game and able to visit him."

The Bears offered Sugarman a full-time job in 1997, and he's in his 20th season in the NFL.


"Who knows what would have happened in my career had I stayed there and maybe made the big leagues, but I never think about that because I'm 20 years deep in the NFL and love what I do here," said Sugarman, who is now in his 11th season with the Vikings.

Returning to Soldier Field each season rekindles a memory from years ago.

"I was hoping when I'd go to preseason games as an intern that I could do this for a living," Sugarman said.   

Know, he's looking on as the Cubs try to accomplish what was once thought to be a hopeless cause.

"That's #Priceless. You can't put value on [the Cubs winning the World Series]," Sugarman said. "They deserve to win it, having the drought that they've had. Anyone who is a sports fan that's not a Cleveland Indians fan should root for them."

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