Nothing makes me feel like spring is here more than getting to a baseball game. In D.C., National Park is comfortable, clean, with great food and an overall “nice” place to watch a game. Same goes for PNC in Pittsburgh, and Camden in Baltimore. But what these new stadiums lack is a history and character. As a long time Red Sox fan, I’ve been to Fenway Park numerous times and love the old-school look and feel of Sox games during the summer and I’m almost snobby about how it’s a far superior baseball watching experience than in any other ballpark.
The one place I always thought that could be the exception is Wrigley Field in Chicago. Much like how the Red Sox fans used to be, the poor Cubs fans have had a long history of losing heartbreaking games and a championship drought going back to 1908. So when I was sent to Chicago for work, I made it a goal to get to a Cubs game while I was there.
Wrigley is located right in the heart of the Wrigleyville neighborhood in Chicago. Unlike other stadiums that you can see from miles away, Wrigley Field is so small and intimate that you don’t know where it is until you follow the crowd down the street and you’re right on top of it. Walking into the stadium, you can feel the excitement and energy from the crowd immediately. The interior has that same archaic look that Fenway has, where there is more wood and old paint look then that metallic, smooth, electronic look of the newer stadiums.
We walked in right as they were doing the national anthem, and I was able to take in just how small the stadium was. But what the park lacked in size it made up for in character with the manual scoreboard out in center field and the make-shift bleacher seats on the rooftops of the buildings across the street (easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen). Also seeing the seats in left field reminded me of the famous Bartman incident in 2003, and I can see how easily the fans in that section are on top of the action out there. Our ticketed seats weren’t that good (although there aren’t really bad seats in the park since it’s so small), so throughout the game my buddy and I inched our way closer and closer until we had seats that gave us a great vantage point on the first baseline.
The fans at Wrigley were both amusing and knowledgeable, making the conversations around us almost as entertaining as the game itself. Our baseball experience was rounded out with a Chicago hot dog and cold Old Style beer (the Natty-Bo, Milwaukee’s Best, Iron City, whatever shitty beer you want to insert, of Chicago). The close, back and forth game was also an exciting one with home runs, a play at the plate, web gems, and a beer getting thrown in the opposing players face as he tried to catch a fly ball (http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/sports/cbsports-pirates-jones-on-beer-spill-it-was-a-miller-lite-i-got-a-taste-of-it-20110403,0,5736166.story). We also got a little Chicago native John Cusack as well singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the traditional 7th inning stretch ceremony.
But ultimately, in stereotypical Cubs fashion, they blew the 5-4 lead in the 9th inning and lost the game 6-5. The picture that said it all in my mind was seeing a Cubs fan in the bathroom afterwards, shaking his head and talking to no one in particular saying “The Cubs are so bad…They’re so bad….”. Don’t worry Cubs fans, take it from a Red Sox fan – It has to happen sometime. But believe me, even if the Cubbies lose, the bars around the park are still hopping like crazy afterwards and everyone seems to still know how to have a good time.
If you’re a baseball fan, get yourself to a Cubs game at some point in your life. I don’t know how much longer that ballpark can hold up over time, so get the experience in while you can.