Bote saved his best for last with slam

April 4th, 2020

CHICAGO -- lived out every kid's backyard dream on the big league stage two years ago. He was down to his last strike, and the Cubs were down to their final out. Chicago trailed by three, the bases were loaded and Wrigley Field was buzzing with anticipation.

Bote's ultimate grand slam game against the Nationals aired recently as part of Major League Baseball's "#MLBatHome" series on MLB's Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, giving Cubs fans a chance to interact while the baseball season remains on hold.

"This is the ultimate excitement," former Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels said after the classic game against Washington on Aug. 12, 2018.

On that night, Javier Báez started at third base in place of an injured Kris Bryant, whose setback paved the way for Bote's promotion from Triple-A Iowa. Bote began the game on the bench, where he had a great view of a pitchers' duel between Hamels and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

Scherzer and Hamels locked horns deep into the ballgame. Eleven of Scherzer's 300 strikeouts on the season came over the course of his seven shutout innings. Hamels struck out nine and limited Washington to one run in his seven frames. The Nationals tacked on two runs in the ninth against the Cubs' bullpen, moving three outs from victory.

Nats closer Ryan Madson retired the first batter he faced, then the wheels began to wobble. Jason Heyward reached on an infield single and Albert Almora Jr. was hit by a pitch. One out later, Willson Contreras was also struck by a misfired Madson offering, loading the bases for Bote, who was summoned as a pinch-hitter.

"I was like, 'Just get it in the air. Hit it as hard as I can to center field,'" Bote said afterward. "That was the approach."

Bote worked into a 2-2 count, then applied that approach against a four-seamer at the bottom of the strike zone. The righty-swinging infielder slugged the pitch to straightaway center, where it dropped into the batter's eye as bedlam ensued at the Friendly Confines.

Bote stretched his arms to the sides, soaring around first base as his teammates poured onto the field. He tossed his helmet into the night sky and bounded down the third-base line and into the mob of celebrating Cubs.

"I see my teammates at home plate jumping around, it's magical," Bote said. "It's incredible. It's an unbelievable feeling."

It is a feeling that has only been experienced by a big leaguer 27 times (on record). It was the Cubs' first walk-off grand slam while trailing by three runs since Ellis Burton achieved the rare feat on Aug. 31, 1963. Bote's blast was also deemed the Cubs' second-best homer of the decade by

"It's the thing that [happens] when you're a kid in the backyard and you're visualizing trying to win games," Hamels said. "It's always bases loaded, you're down by three and trying to hit the grand slam. And for Bote to be able to do it, what a way to be able to experience that."