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updated: 6/26/2014 10:25 PM

3 former Cubs throw out first pitches before Cougars game

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  • Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alum Lee Smith throws a ceremonial first pitch before the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

      Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alum Lee Smith throws a ceremonial first pitch before the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

  • Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alumni Gary Matthews, Lee Smith and Steve Trout pose for a photo with the cougar on the field after throwing ceremonial first pitches at the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

      Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alumni Gary Matthews, Lee Smith and Steve Trout pose for a photo with the cougar on the field after throwing ceremonial first pitches at the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

  • Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alum Gary Matthews throws a ceremonial first pitch before the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

      Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alum Gary Matthews throws a ceremonial first pitch before the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

  • Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alumni Steve Trout, center, Lee Smith and Gary Matthews have fun on the field before throwing ceremonial first pitches at the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

      Brooke Herbert Hayes/bhayes@dailyherald.com1984 Cubs alumni Steve Trout, center, Lee Smith and Gary Matthews have fun on the field before throwing ceremonial first pitches at the Kane County Cougars game on Thursday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

 
By Nate Atkins
natkins@dailyherald.com

Lee Smith's ceremonial first pitch before Thursday night's Kane County Cougars game floated in the middle of the zone and then dropped when it reached the plate.

Steve Trout's took a high arc before settling just above the strike zone.

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Gary Matthews' took a similar route but not quite as high.

It would be quite the stretch to call this a competition, with the casual outfits and the friendly smiles. But it certainly brought out memories of fiercer times -- some that have faded but so many more the 1984 Cubs refuse to retire from their memories.

The three met up at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, where they signed autographs and chatted with fans about their days playing for the 1984 Cubs.

When Smith retired as a Montreal Expo in 1997, he was MLB's all-time leader in saves, a mark broken by Trevor Hoffman in 2006. Smith spent the first eight years of his career in Chicago, including the final six as the closer. Now, he works as a consulting pitching instructor in the San Francisco Giants' minor league system.

Trout also built his legend on the mound, spending his first five seasons with the White Sox and the next five with the Cubs. He won 80 games between the two. He still lives in the Chicago area and says he spends his time looking for fun things to do, such as watching local baseball games.

Matthews made his name in the outfield for the Cubs. His first year with the team was 1984, which became his best year as a pro when he led the league in on-base percentage and finished fifth in NL MVP voting. Now he serves as a speaker at various events, including MLB's youth-development program.

The three visited the Cougars game to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Cubs, who won the National League East with a 96-65 record but fell to the San Diego Padres 3-2 in the National League championship series.

"Again, it's something about the Cubs and not being able to finish it," Matthews said. "It's sad, in a way."

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