Samantha Dykstra and John Sterenberg got married on Aug. 18, then made it through a Jamaica honeymoon as Hurricane Isaac was starting to gather steam across the Atlantic. They are starting a blissful life together in the quaint northwestern Illinois river and farming community of Fulton (pop. 3,481), a slice of Americana not far from Ronald Reagan's birthplace.
The town has an iconic Dutch windmill fondly known as "De Immigrant" and is set hard on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, with Iowa right across the water. Husband and wife went to college together at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She works at Metal-Tech Manufacturing as an office manager and says her "unofficial job" is being a Cubs fan. He works for John Deere Product Development, farms and is a volunteer fireman.
"Some people will never know the awesome life us Midwesterners have with just the simple things -- we are the lucky ones," Samantha said in an e-mail on Thursday to MLB.com. "We're a pretty low-key couple, so the fact that my ladies and I were picked for this game show is incredible to us, and we will always remember winning our Bucks on the Pond."
Indeed, MLB.com found the future bride one week before her big day on the opposite side of Illinois, inside the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, donning a bridal train on the back of her white Cubs cap and glowing amid a bachelorette party along with matron of honor Andrea Eggers and bridesmaids Kim Slotman, April Fuegen and Brittany Spielman. They are the stars and the first Cubs representatives in the ninth episode of the MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond."
"Bucks on the Pond" is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel, and you might be a part of it when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside, and new episodes are being released every Tuesday and Thursday this season. In creating a new experience for fans, MLB.com is giving people a chance to earn bucks while they spend bucks at the ballpark.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct, and win money. Get the question wrong, and it's a strike. Three strikes, and you're out.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions start the show, $10 medium-difficulty questions follow after one out, $20 hard questions come with two outs. If the contestants last longer than the half-inning, they win the bucks in their bank.
Fans are selected randomly on the day the "Bucks" team is at that park, and this quintet was found behind the bleachers on the day of a Cubs-Reds game.
"It was awesome," Samantha said. "None of us had ever been in the bleachers before, so it was a new experience for everyone. Plus we got to shout at some of the players during warmups, and most of them looked and waved. [Carlos] Marmol even blew us a kiss!
"This definitely made the bachelorette party more awesome, because it's not something everyone gets to do. John didn't really know what it was about at first when I told him, since it's a new game, but when I told him how much we won, he was a lot more excited to hear the rest of the story!"
The bride said she has been watching other "Bucks" episodes and sees why this is creating a buzz around Major League Baseball in 2012. You'll have to watch the show to see how the bridal party fared, but it's safe to say that it was a good day at the ballpark.
"I think it's a great game -- lots of fun," Samantha said. "Plus, when I watch the other episodes, I like trying to guess the answers before the contestants do."
Samantha jokingly says that being around Brewers fans for college "was the worst four years ever," as Milwaukee went through some glory years, often at the Cubs' expense. Being around Cubs fans for a bachelorette party and winning some bucks -- that was one of her greatest days ever, behind marrying John.
"It was an amazing experience," Samantha said of the game show. "It's not something everyone gets to do, so that makes it more special."
In addition to the Cubs, teams visited so far include the Marlins, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Royals, Astros and White Sox. Be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.