MESA, Ariz. -- If Steve Berry were alive, he and his father, Mike, would be going to every Cubs home Spring Training game together. It was Steve's dream to someday take his son as well. But Steve died in 2002 at the age of 24, and since then, his dad has been donating his Cubs tickets to fathers and sons and mothers and daughters so they can share the joy of being together at a baseball game.
Mike Berry created "Steve's Dream" in memory of his son, who died from pericarditis, an infection around the heart. Spring Training was Steve's favorite time of the year.
The inspiration came in a "Field of Dreams"-type vision, Mike said, which told him that he needed to share Cubs baseball with other families.
"Being a season ticket holder since '84, I said I'm going to donate some of my own, at that time, front-row seats at Hohokam to other fathers and sons, and that's how Steve's Dream got started," Mike said.
The Cubs have since moved from Hohokam Stadium to Sloan Park, but Mike has continued his efforts. He and friends set up a tent along the walkway between the ballpark and the Cubs' new facilities, and have a full-fledged tailgate party. You can find them by the signs on the tent that say, "Steve's Dream."
If Mike hasn't already lined up families for the seats, he'll walk over to the ballpark's ticket line, looking for parents with children. He'll ask if they have tickets and makes sure they know he's not a scalper. The tickets are free, but Mike has two requirements.
"The first condition is that you go to our website and sign the guest log or send us an email," he said of www.stevesdream.com, "and the second condition is you take the next 3 1/2 hours and you forget about life and you be there with your son or daughter, and you just be together. I talk about Steve a little bit and the memories we had. Just be with each other for the next 3 1/2 hours and have a good time."
Their motto is "creating memories one dream at a time." Steve's Dream is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and Mike has donated tickets to organizations such as Phoenix Children's Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Special Olympics. This year, Steve's Dream is partnering with the Miracle League of Arizona and HopeKids, which grants wishes to children facing life-threatening illness.
So far, they've treated more than 1,500 people to Cubs games. One of the father/son combinations included a man who recently lost his son to leukemia a few months ago, and who now joins Mike at the games. Mike is hoping another young man, Campbell, who is battling mitochondrial disease and who was befriended by Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber last year, can make it to another game.
When asked what Steve would think about his father's efforts, Mike choked back tears.
"It's a little bit of Cubs heaven -- it is Cubs heaven in Arizona," Mike said.