Big city birthday

A Walla Walla native is surprised with a trip to Chicago to see the Bears for his 30th birthday.

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Travis and Jodi grove touring Wrigley Field while in Chicago celebrating Travis' 30th birthday. Travis was named the honorary 40,000th guest to tour Wrigley.

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Jodi and Travis grove celebrate Travis' 30th birthday in style with a trip to Chicago to see the Bears.

WALLA WALLA - For his 30th birthday Sept. 15, Travis Grove, a Walla Walla native and Wa-Hi class of 2000, got a dream present.

After opening 29 presents, his wife, Jodi, took their 10-month-old daughter, Kensley, upstairs and changed her into a Chicago Bears outfit. Kensley then handed Travis two tickets to a Chicago Bears game.

In Chicago.

The first thing that popped into Travis', a truck driver for Pepsi, head was, "what about work?"

As it turned out, Jodi had taken care of work, travel, hotels and everything else, not to mention the tickets.

As both Jodi and Travis said, it all kind of fell into place. Even Jodi's sisters Jamie Sporleder, Julie Wiley and their significant others made the trip.

"It just kind of worked out, everything fell into place," Jodi said. "We just kind of did it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"She called my boss a few months prior. She covered everything," Travis said. "I was shocked. It (work) was the first thing that popped into my head.

"She did well. We've even talked with the group about going back next summer too, for a baseball game, maybe," he said.

Depending on one's perspective on luck, the Bears might want to fly the Groves back sooner than that. Or, alternatively, they might want to ban them from Chicago in the fall. At the game the Groves attended, the Bears defeated San Diego, 30-21, on Nov. 20, but it was also the game star quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb.

The Bears haven't won since.

While on the trip, the Groves and Company also went on a tour of Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, and Travis was named the honorary 40,000th fan to visit the stadium that season.

Grove enjoyed the tour, but there was only one problem: He is a Brewers fan.

"I'm actually a Brewers fan, which kind of made the Wrigley tour a little awkward," he said. "But doing that tour, it made me want to become a Cubs fan a little.

"All they've (Cubs fans) been through, it's pretty cool," Grove said. "All the history of that park, it's pretty amazing."

Grove grew up watching the Bears and Walter Peyton, but his Brewer fandom traces a windier path.

It started when Grove graduated from Walla Walla Community College with an associates in general studies in 2002 and then a degree in turf management in 2004. He worked stints for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Eugene Emeralds and ultimately wound up as the head grounds keeper for the Helena Brewers in Montana in 2005.

Grove said he did the turf management program as a way to stay connected with baseball, and that he enjoyed lawn care.

"(My) last job was in Helena, Mont., for the Helena Brewers, the Brewers' minor league team, and I got to see some of their players," he said. "It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it."

Since then, Grove, who played baseball for Wa-Hi, returned to Walla Walla to settle down with then-fiance Jodi and now works for Pepsi.

But the Brewers stuck with him.

The Cubs and Brewers are lukewarm rivals, but that was enough for Grove - he didn't mention his preference to the tour guides.

The Cubs gave Grove some memorabilia from the tour, a Cubs bag, an autographed baseball, and more, but he isn't exactly rushing to mount it in a hermetically sealed case.

"I don't know yet (what he is going to do with the memorabilia)," he said. "It's kind of just in one of our spare rooms."

The Groves have been married since 2006, and first started dating in high school.

He admitted that Jodi, who is 28, has upped the gift-giving ante.

"I've got to do something pretty big now," Grove said. "I've got to start thinking about that (30th birthday present)."

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