After nearly 14 years of persecution, the Chicago Cubs’ most infamous fan is finally getting some closure.
Steve Bartman received a 2016 World Series championship ring, the organization announced Monday, in a gesture he said he hopes would serve as "the start of an important healing and reconciliation process."
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman," the Cubs said in a statement. "We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series.
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"While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today," the statement ends.
Bartman rose to infamy in 2003 when he interfered with a foul ball that outfielder Moises Alou was about to catch in Game 6 of the National League Championship series against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs went on to lose that game and the series, and fans took their frustrations out on Bartman.
Since the incident, Bartman has maintained a low profile, granting no interviews and making no public appearances, even amid the Cubs' first World Series victory in 108 years. But following the presentation of the ring, Bartman shared an emotional response Monday, opening up on not only the meaning of the gift, but speaking about his experiences since that fateful day.
Read his full statement below:
Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations.
Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.
I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time. Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in a previous interview that he planned to reach out to Bartman in hopes of providing "closure for everybody," while a spokesman for Bartman said that while he was "overjoyed" with the team's victory, he did not want to be a "distraction to the accomplishments of the players and the organization."