Steve Bartman, once considered Public Enemy No. 1 among Chicago Cubs fans, received a ring from the team on Monday to commemorate the franchise's 2016 World Series championship.
Bartman, ostracized in Chicago for his role in the team's collapse in the 2003 National League Championship Series, was presented with the ring in the offices of team owner Tom Ricketts. Theo Epstein, the team's president of baseball operations, was among those at the ceremony.
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman," Ricketts and 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.
"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."
Bartman received a tour of Wrigley Stadium during his visit, coming 14 years after the infamous incident in which he tried to catch a foul ball that Chicago left fielder Moises Alou appeared to be able to catch. The Cubs were leading the Marlins in the eighth inning and were only five outs away from playing in the World Series.
The Cubs went on to lose the game and blow a 3-2 series lead, extending their legendary history of failures in big moments. Chicago's World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians last year ended a drought of 108 years without a championship.
For personal reasons, Bartman requested that no photos or videos be taken of Monday's ceremony, but he did issue a lengthy statement of gratitude for the gesture from the Cubs.
"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," Bartman said in his statement. "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."
Bartman was extended an invitation to last year's World Series celebratory parade but turned it down, with a friend saying he didn't want to be a "distraction" to the grand moment.
In 2015, Cubs fans created a GoFundMe page to raise money in order for Bartman to attend Chicago's wild-card game, but he also nixed the idea of attending the contest. Monday's ceremony went along way to soothing the past feelings.
"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," Bartman continued in the statement. "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."