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Bears recall Wrigley Field memories on eve of MLB playoffs

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Late in the game, trailing by one, Bears tight end Trey Burton surveyed the field, took a deep breath and exhaled.

The pressure was on, and all eyes were on Burton.

This wasn't a primetime, under-the-lights NFL game, though, and Burton wasn't expected to deliver a game-winning catch. It was a late-May Chicago Cubs game and 41,250 looked to Burton to deliver a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

"A thousand times more nervous for that than any football game," Burton said looking back on it.

Burton is one of several Bears who has gotten the call up to Wrigley Field to lead the stretch. The Cubs traditionally bring in a guest to sing the song that longtime broadcaster Harry Caray made famous.

When the Cubs needed a singer last season, they called on long snapper Patrick Scales and punter Pat O'Donnell .

The two, along with some former Bears teammates, were invited to Wrigley Field to take batting practice before the game. The Cubs didn't end up taking batting practice, though, so the duo was out of luck. But just before the game they were informed that the person originally scheduled to lead the seventh-inning stretch couldn't make it, and the Cubs asked if they'd fill in.

"I grew up playing baseball, absolutely love playing baseball, love the game, and I was like, 'Absolutely. I'm all in. I'll do it,' " Scales said. "And the other guys were kind of hesitant. … I was like, 'It's cool I'll do it by myself. I don't care,' so I was all jazzed up."

O'Donnell and the others ended up joining, but Scales took the lead and, per tradition, cued Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy.

"Scales really wanted to take initiative on the 'Hey Gary, a one, a two, a three," O'Donnell said. "So he's the one that started off."

O'Donnell was comfortable as a backup singer, while Scales took the lead.

"I told Gary to hit it on the piano," Scales said. "I tried to pour my heart and soul into it."

Not every Bears player has had Scales' confidence.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller has been invited to do the stretch twice, and learned after his first go at it that he was a better conductor than vocalist.

"The first time I didn't sing, I talked it or yelled it," Fuller said. "The second time I kind of let the crowd sing."

Some other teammates have had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field as well as lead the stretch.

During an early September game last year, running back Jordan Howard was invited to throw out the first pitch and sing the stretch. For the singing, he called in backup in the form of teammates Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham.

Cohen and Cunningham rated their singing performance a 10/10, and Cunningham thinks it could even lead to a career change.

"I probably should get a record deal or something from that," he said.

Howard was on his own for the first pitch before the game, though, and one-hopped the plate. He admits the nerves of toeing the rubber at Wrigley Field were worse than entering a game at Soldier Field.

"I feel like there was a lot more pressure," Howard said. "There was a lot of people looking at me."

Howard isn't alone in getting the yips on the mound. Tight end Zach Miller had double duties, earlier this season, throwing out the first pitch and singing the stretch.

"Playing football is what I do, so I'm comfortable doing that," Miller said. "Going out there on the mound, isolated with everybody watching, you don't want to embarrass yourself."

Miller's pitch made it the distance, a little high and outside, but he said his real contribution was rallying the Cubs with his singing of the stretch.

The Cubs trailed the game by two going into the ninth and walked off on a Jason Heyward grand slam. It was the second time this season that the Cubs had a major come-from-behind win with Bears personnel in the house.

On April 14, coach Matt Nagy threw out the first pitch and sang the stretch on a day when the Cubs erased an eight-run deficit to come back and win in dramatic fashion.

Miller thinks the Bears might just be a good luck charm.

"I think there's proof in the pudding," Miller said. "When we're present in that situation, good things happen."

Head coach Matt Nagy took his family to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh inning stretch during a wild Cubs win.

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