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Cubs fans enjoy VIP day at Wrigley Field

Son treats father after winning 'reporter for day' auction
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Don Nelson's favorite Cubs player is Billy Williams, so imagine his surprise when he had a chance to wish the Hall of Famer happy birthday on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Nelson, who will celebrate his 60th birthday on Friday, was treated to a day at the ballpark by his son, Anthony, 34, who was the winning bidder of a "reporter for the day" package as part of the Winter Meetings MLB auction benefiting the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship.

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CHICAGO -- Don Nelson's favorite Cubs player is Billy Williams, so imagine his surprise when he had a chance to wish the Hall of Famer happy birthday on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Nelson, who will celebrate his 60th birthday on Friday, was treated to a day at the ballpark by his son, Anthony, 34, who was the winning bidder of a "reporter for the day" package as part of the Winter Meetings MLB auction benefiting the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship.

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"My first memory of watching a Cubs game was on WGN and it was Jack Brickhouse's call on Ernie Banks' 500th home run," Don said. "That's my first memory of a Cubs game. He only hit 512 [homers], and I saw 500.

"We came down to the field and I said, 'It looks like Billy Williams is out there. He turned 80 last Friday, so we were over there taking pictures with him standing by the [No.] 26 and I said, 'Happy birthday, Mr. Williams,' and he said, 'Thank you.' I said, 'I'm somebody.'"

Tweet from @Cubs: Sweet-swinging surprise!Happy 80th birthday, Billy. pic.twitter.com/ngTNQt8iLU

As far as Anthony is concerned, his father is very special.

"I was looking for a Father's Day/birthday present," Anthony said. "We built a house last year and he was kind of my foreman/worker. It's one way to repay him. He's a huge Cubs fan, and baseball has been a bond. I thought this would be a good present."

Said Don: "I didn't expect this at all."

Besides going onto the field, the Nelsons got a peek inside the press box and a chance to join Cubs radio broadcasters Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer in the booth for a half-inning during the Cubs' night game against the Dodgers.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo stopped by to say hello in the dugout before the game.

"Where else would you rather be than here?" Rizzo said.

Anthony Nelson had sent his father a copy of their itinerary for the day.

"It's beyond my wildest dreams," Don said. "I read [the text message] and said, 'He's not kidding, we're really going to do this.' I actually had to go into the restroom because I was starting to tear up."

The two have attended Cubs games at Wrigley Field before, but it's different when you're actually standing near home plate.

"I love the history of baseball," Don said. "I go over there, getting ready to go to home plate, and I'm thinking, 'Babe Ruth stood there and called his shot.' All the great players were here. My era, when I started following baseball, was the '70s and up with [Ron] Santo and [Don] Kessinger and [Glenn] Beckert and Billy Williams and [Fergie] Jenkins. To be out there where they're playing, those are your idols. It's a very cool feeling."

The father and son, who live five minutes apart in Downs, Ill., near Bloomington/Normal, are very close to Cardinals country.

"[My dad] kind of flipped me because my mom's a Cardinals fan," Anthony said. "The first couple years I was a Cardinals fan, but watching more games with him during the day, he turned me and my brother into Cubs fans. My mom's been searching for a Cardinals fan to cheer with her ever since."

Said Don: "I thought I was going to have to put them in therapy when they were young, being Cardinals fans."

The kids did honor both teams for their parents' 25th wedding anniversary and gave them a cake decorated with Cubs and Cardinals colors. Don and Margie have been married 36 years now, so they've reached an understanding.

The biggest moment for Cubs fans came Nov. 2, 2016, when the team beat the Indians to win the World Series. The Nelsons were all watching the game together, but when the rain delay came, Anthony and his wife decided to leave because they had a young son and it was late.

"Rain delays are never 25 minutes, and we had a 20-minute drive, so we thought, 'Oh, we'll be home in plenty of time,'" Anthony said. "We're about a mile from the house and we hear, 'Oh, the game's coming back on.' We had to run in the house and try not to wake up the kid and get to the TV in time."

They did both.

"Being a Cubs fan and all the heartache and stuff, that game had to end up that way," Don said. "[The Indians] had to tie it up, they had to break your heart a little bit, then they scored those two runs. Pat Hughes' call on that was phenomenal.

"Hopefully, this year or next year or whenever, we're hoping for multiple [championship] runs."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

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