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Emma: These Youthful Cubs Can Handle What's To Come

By Chris Emma—

CHICAGO (CBS) – Cameras and microphones were stuffed in the face of Kris Bryant. Really, it's nothing new.

The Cubs' rookie sensation seems to be the frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year. For this franchise in desperate search of its first World Series since, well, you know, Bryant is the blue-eyed face of hope. Off to the side of this media scrum, Chris Coghlan glanced in resignation.

The NL Rookie of the Year in 2009, Coghlan realizes to an extent what Bryant deals with each day. Those questions peppered Bryant's way were about maintaining the Cubs' great hopes for this season, how he continues to emerge as a star and the ways this group will keep fighting for a World Series. Pressure is all part of the job.

"It's just about staying in the moment," Coghlan said.

Wrigley Field is packed with excitement each time the Cubs take the field. This young, promising team has exceeded the reasonable expectations set for an organization still building for better. The ballpark has seen crowds of more than 30,000 since April, when Bryant and Addison Russell entered the fold. That's when it began to feel real. The buzz is back, and it keeps spreading.

In that time, the Cubs have gone from nice story to wild-card placeholder and a legitimate threat for a World Series run. They're that good.

"It's great to be in this position, to play meaningful games in September," Cubs baseball boss Theo Epstein said. "I think our players deserve it. They've played hard all year, they've played as a team all year, they've believed in one another. It's great to get to this point. Then, you want to validate what's been a really outstanding season in a lot of ways, you want to validate with a good September and get to October."

October is where the prize lies. The Cubs haven't won a game in the postseason since Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS, when they took a 3-1 lead over the Marlins and were one game from the World Series. You know what happened next.

Winning in the playoffs would be a nice start for the Cubs, especially considering their youth. But the silly narrative of Cubdom would suggest ghosts from the past are sure to haunt — the Billy Goat, Bartman, etc. It's all ridiculous, and something that's lost on this bunch.

"I don't think we completely understand the significance of what's going on right now," Cubs reliever Justin Grimm said. "We're just showing up, making our mark in the big leagues. It's been a lot of fun."

Need any bit of proof? When Jake Arrieta threw the final strike to seal his masterful no-hitter on Sunday, Grimm wasn't even aware of it. His Cubs teammates rushed the field to celebrate, and Grimm only caught on when running to the mound and glancing back at the Dodger Stadium scoreboard.

Making history is something special, no matter the circumstances. Every step to the Cubs' chase has been no exception.

"This team doesn't strike me as a team that's going to be overwhelmed by any situation," Epstein said.

Consider it all part of the Joe Maddon influence. Arrieta dominated the Dodgers and their record-smashing $300 million payroll on national television. Baseball's best-kept secret is no more — "If you don't know me by now, you better ask somebody," he said – and he showed why this Cubs group is so unique.

After being doused by the Gatorade shower and given the hero's welcome, Arrieta went with team protocol for the road trip and wore a onesie to the postgame press conference, one which he was to be lauded for such an achievement.

The Cubs are locked in, like their newly discovered ace in Arrieta, but know how to have fun along the way. Now, the baseball is about to get real.

"Moving forward, we know the light is pretty close," Arrieta said. "We can see it. Now, it's time to stay focused."

Each game will bring added pressure. The Cubs will be placed under a microscope, with the franchise's futile past unfairly in mind. They can't help what happened before them.

What the Cubs do know is how to enjoy the process of fighting for history. No added cameras, microphones, goats and alleged curses matter to a team still taking it all in while getting closer to history each day.

"It's a lot easier when you're having fun," Grimm said. "That couldn't be more true. If you're stressed out about this or that, this game can really eat you up. If you're having fun, it makes it so much easier to show up to the park, get your work in, continue to have fun and enjoy it."

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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