By Phil Rogers – September 11, 2018
With a group of about 100 friends and family members watching from the upper deck at Wrigley Field, Cubs fan Stefan Xidas belted out the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Monday’s game against the Brewers.
Xidas, a New Trier High School graduate who has Down syndrome, wore a smile as big as the players’ in the Cubs’ World Series parade of 2016.
“This is my shining moment right here,” he said. “It’s been the best time I’ve ever had in my whole life.”
Xidas rocked the anthem, standing tall and never missing a note. If it were possible for a crowd that was already standing to give someone a standing ovation, he would have received one.
“I have practiced so many times,” the 30-year-old said beforehand. “Then I had some hot tea. Now that I’m on the field, I’m going to enjoy it. It’s going to be the best.”
Xidas challenged Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts to allow him to sing the anthem in a GoFundMe campaign that raised $18,600, to be donated to Special Olympics. The Cubs will match that donation, so Stefan’s willingness to sing raised $37,200 for the charity.
Stan Xidas, Stefan’s father, credited two lifelong friends of his son for organizing the event.
“Since kindergarten, Stefan has had two really great friends, Tommy Molitor and John Rucinski,” Stan said. “They were friends in neighborhood. They literally have enveloped his life, have done everything with him and for him. They have blessed Stefan beyond belief in his life, but it’s so reciprocal.”
Stefan sang the national anthem at U.S. Cellular Field before a White Sox game in 2005. Stan said he’s wanted to try at Wrigley Field since then but wasn’t able to arrange it until Molitor got the idea of using social media to bring attention to his campaign.
“Tommy, who happens to be a videographer, suggested we do a GoFundMe campaign,” Stan said. “He put the whole thing together. This is all Tommy. It’s awesome. Here we are.”
The campaign hit home with those who know Stefan, and even some who don’t.
“It just kind of took off after we put it on Facebook,” Stan said. “Everybody was really supportive of it. We got calls after calls from friends and family. Donations started coming in. It was tremendous.”
Stefan received a tour of the clubhouse before singing the anthem. He said it was great meeting Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant.
He’s sending his good fortune the Cubs’ way, just as he did with the Sox in ’05.
“After I sing the national anthem, I told them that the Cubs will definitely go to the playoffs and they will win,” he said. “I will make sure of it.”