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Safe, Cubs can make light of weather

Safe, Cubs make light of lightning

CHICAGO -- Cubs infielder Mike Fontenot saw one pitch in the eighth inning Monday night, then the lightning illuminated the sky around Wrigley Field, and he heard one of the loudest booms ever.

"You're looking around, and you see the lightning," Fontenot said, replaying the abbreviated final at-bat of the Cubs' 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros, which was stopped after 8 1/3 innings because of a storm.

"I heard it -- whoa," Fontenot said of the thunderclap that seemed to shake the stadium. "I remember the catcher kind of ducked, and started running off the field, and I saw [Lance] Berkman running off the field, and I said, 'Guess we're done.' Then the umpires said, 'Go in.'"

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Berkman and Astros catcher Humberto Quintero both headed for the dugout after the lightning strike that seemed to hit near the ballpark.

"It was crazy," Fontenot said. "It looked like it hit the top of the roof, but it was further back. It was definitely a scary thing. You always hear people getting struck by lightning. It's pretty dangerous."

Storms such as Monday's in Chicago, which knocked out power to more than 200,000 homes, dumped heavy rain, and whipped the area with hurricane-force winds, happen all the time in Fontenot's home state of Louisiana.

"It's almost an everyday occurrence," he said.

Not everyone was as nonchalant about it.

"I've never seen the lightning like that, that bad and that close," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "You could see it getting closer when you were on the field. You're like, 'OK, we have about five minutes here, and it's going to be on top of us.' That lightning bolt that hit -- it was scary. We watched the replay a couple times after, and laughed at the reactions of some of the players."

But it wasn't funny at the time.

"As loud and as bright as the lightning was, [umpire Wally Bell] was given assurances that it was not close," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "I don't think anyone who was on top of it felt it was real close until the last jolt, and then it was definitely time to shut it down."

The game was delayed prior to the Astros' sixth, and the tornado sirens went off shortly after the tarp was on the field. Play was resumed after a two-hour-45-minute delay, and the Cubs best chance seemed to be in the seventh, when they had a runner on and two outs. DeRosa launched a ball to deep left, but Carlos Lee caught it in front of the wall. The humid air held it up.

Then, the strike in the eighth during Fontenot's at-bat sent everyone running.

"I ran a little bit," said Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, who was in the bullpen at the time.

"I remember what happened to Jeremi," said bullpen catcher Edgar Tovar of former Cubs pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez, who was struck and killed by lightning earlier this year. Many felt that Gonzalez was hit because he was wearing a gold chain around his neck.

Chad Gaudin started the sixth inning for the Cubs when play resumed.

"I had to worry about pitching," Gaudin said. "If I was in the field when that kind of lightning was coming down, I may have had a second thought. I could throw a pitch and all of a sudden look behind the stadium and hear a crash and see the white lighting coming down, I might have had a second thought. But that didn't happen."

During Gaudin's two innings, the lightning was in the distance.

"That last one [in the eighth], I saw Lance Berkman running, [first-base coach] Matty Sinatro duck for cover," DeRosa said. "For us, we were appreciative that the umpires gave us an opportunity to get that game in. The way it was raining after the first stoppage, we were thinking there was no chance we could get it in."

The warning sirens were enough for Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

"On the golf course, they ring the siren and you get off the course quick, and that's exactly what Wally did," Piniella said. "When that last [lightning strike] hit over there behind right field, that was the end of that. The umpires did a nice job of waiting. These are important games, and they treat it as such."

The Cubs new drainage system installed over the offseason passed the test. The game would've been stopped after the first delay on the old field. Give groundskeeper Roger Baird and his crew credit for getting it ready on time.

"A lot of guys were a little depressed and upset to play five innings and have it be 'Game over,'" DeRosa said. "We'd been able to come back before. Two runs is not insurmountable. They gave us a chance, and it was scary."

Several fans stayed for the resumption of play.

"They're crazier than I would be," DeRosa said.

Fontenot wasn't too worried about being struck by lightning.

"I'm thinking I'm not the tallest guy on the field, so I probably wouldn't get struck," he said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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