CHICAGO — Wednesday may have been “Back to the Future” day, but the star of another famous movie involving the Chicago Cubs actually showed up in Wrigleyville for the game.
No, not Ferris Bueller or Cameron Frye.
Actor Thomas Ian Nicholas, who played “Henry Rowengartner” in the film “Rookie of the Year” took an early flight from Los Angeles for NLCS Game 4 and arrived in Chicago around 1:30 p.m..
His mission: Help jump start the Cubs, down 0-3 in the series to the New York Mets, just like his 12-year-old character did when he discovered he could throw 100 mph in the 1993 hit movie.
“All I’m here to do is to get in the Mets heads,” Nicholas said while enjoying a beer in a bar near Wrigley Field a few hours before the first pitch. “I’ve been getting some hate texts from Mets fans on Twitter and that’s fine. Let them keep up the negative energy.”
The Mets served as the rival team in “Rookie of the Year” and the movie’s most dramatic moment comes when Rowengartner loses his special powers and has to trick Mets batters into outs. A GIF of him recording the final strikeout by “floating” it like his softball-playing mother quickly made the rounds on social media once the Cubs-Mets NLCS matchup was finalized.
But that was during much headier times for the Cubs.
Nicholas, now 35, had been planning to come out for the series even before the Cubs were pushed to the brink of elimination. The team facing elimination didn’t deter him, however. After spending all day at Disneyland on Tuesday for his son’s fourth birthday, Nicholas got on a plane early Wednesday.
Asked if any fellow Cubs fans recognized him, Nicholas laughed.
“I was passed out the whole way,” he said. “Disneyland takes a lot out of you.”
Nicholas said he’s more well-known across the world for his starring role in the “American Pie” movies. But that changes when he comes to Chicago, where he’s instantly recognized as Henry Rowengartner. Or Rosinbagger. Or Razenboozler. Or by any of the numerous lines from the movie like “funky butt-loving.”
“I could be in Caracas and I’ll get recognized for American Pie,” Nicholas said. “When I’m in Chicago, it’s Rookie of the Year all the time.”
Though Nicholas was raised on the West Coast, he’s become a fan of the Cubs. Some of that is due to his role in the movie, but most of it is because of his wife. Colette Marino was raised in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and was the resident DJ at Smart Bar, a well-known Wrigleyville hangout, for eight years.
Nicholas was at Wrigley Field earlier this summer to throw out a first pitch and sing the seventh inning stretch, duties he said he’s performed five different times since 2008. He wasn’t slated to do either for Wednesday’s game, which was just fine with Nicholas.
He did, however, request the team make him up a “Rowengartner” Cubs jersey, something he’d never worn at Wrigley since filming the movie and something he hoped would be good luck. His seats were in the upper level, right around the area where his movie mother and two best friends sat with the Cubs owner during the final scene of “Rookie.”
“The main idea right now is to just have some fun,” he said. “No pressure.”
Nicholas describes his Rookie of the Year royalties as “beer money” — around $150 a year — and remains active as both an actor and a musician. His “Thomas Ian Nicholas Band” was slated to play a postgame set at a bar a short relay throw down Clark Street.
Nicholas is also currently starring as a young Walt Disney in “Walt Before Mickey.” The film shows Disney’s struggles as a young entrepreneur and Nicholas said he saw a lot of parallels between this year’s Cubs team and the Disney he’s portraying in theaters.
“Sometimes you’ve got to experience failure before you can move forward and achieve success,” Nicholas said. “And I feel like it’s the same with these Cubs. No matter what happens, they’re young and they’re going to learn so much from this experience.”
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