CHICAGO -- Of all of the poignant moments associated with a team being in the postseason, perhaps there's no single snapshot that hits home more and makes this whole thing actually seem that much more real than when the gigantic American flag is unfurled in the outfield minutes before the first pitch is thrown.
Yes, the Cubs have played two World Series games so far this year, and yes, the city of Chicago has been partying in the streets for the better part of a month celebrating the Cubs' successes that landed them their first pennant in seven decades.
But there is something about the sight of the flag, which takes up most of the outfield and is normally, as was the case Friday at Wrigley Field, unfurled by members of the military, that helps all of this sink in. The World Series, after a seven-decade drought, has come to Wrigley Field.
The highlight was Hall of Famer Billy Williams, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Williams, a six-time All Star, played 16 of his 18 seasons with the Cubs, from 1959-74. He won the 1972 batting title and ranked in the top 10 in National League MVP voting three times.
Williams logged 2,711 hits, 1,475 RBIs and 426 home runs during his career.
The anthem had a local flavor as well. Chicago native Patrick Stump of multi-platinum rock band Fall Out Boy performed the national anthem. It was an honor that left him slightly speechless when he tried to put into words what it meant to him.
Stump was trying to approach this performance like any other, until his brother called him, "shaking, screaming."
"It really put you back into it," Stump said. "Like, this actually is happening. This is crazy."
A familiar face, voice and Wrigley Field staple made an appearance during the pregame ceremonies, too. Wayne Messmer, who has been singing anthems at Cubs regular-season games for years, performed "God Bless America."
Two other former players were also asked to participate in the pregame pageantry -- first baseman Derrek Lee, who delivered the game ball with 17-year-old Anthony Velazquez of the Miguel A. Barreto Branch of the Union League Boys & Girls Club in Chicago, and pitcher Ryan Dempster, who got the crowd riled up with the final rite of passage of the pregame ceremony: yelling "Play Ball."
The Cubs added a unique touch to the pregame on-field presentation in an effort to recognize the dozens of behind-the-scenes front-office staffers who helped build the National League championship team. While the player-development and scouting staffs are rarely, if ever, recognized by the general public, they were all front and center before Game 3 when they paraded onto the field to open the ceremony.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.