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Hello again, everybody

Hello again, everybody

I returned to Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon and it was awesome.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

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Good morning, frents!

I've been to countless Cubs games in my life, each one of them special in their own way and yet so many of them still lost in my mind to time and the volume of afternoons well spent.

But I will never forget Saturday's game.

How could I? The past year has been such an upside-down nightmare that any steps we take back toward normalcy will seems momentous. As such, I've been struggling to describe the experience.

It shouldn't be this difficult.  

And yet I still can't come up with words for what I felt as I approached the bleacher gate walking south down Sheffield. There's always something magical about coming through the neighborhood, hearing the organ first and then getting that first peek of the scoreboard and the multi-colored standing flags whipping above.

When I experienced that on Saturday, it was as if someone had just hit play on a paused movie we'd been staring at for months. I thought my first rush of emotion would come at the first sight of the field but it happened much earlier and often than that.

The entire afternoon was a quilt of "can you believe this is happening again?" moments from that first beer (OK, it was two) at Murphy's socially-distanced patio  to cheering nearby fans who caught foul balls to willing a Kris Bryant ball into the center field basket with just over 10,000 others (including Bryant's young son, who KB pointed to in the stands after crossing home plate).

That Jake Arrieta was pitching and playing stopper after an opening day loss to the Pirates made it really seem as if we'd just arrived via time machine.

OK, so you probably want to know more about attending a game at Wrigley as we try and make an escape from the pandemic, so here are some answers to your questions.

Tickets

I bought them last Tuesday off a season ticket holder on a Facebook group I've belonged to for several years. It was a great set of third-row seats in the 300 level, just to the right of the pressbox and in prime territory for a foul ball. (Drats, foiled again.) We paid $120 a seat, which is maybe more than we had to but I wasn't taking risks with the limited capacity and the nice weather forecast. If you want to go this week, prices are much cheaper for the Milwaukee series.

Fun story: After the tickets hit my Ballpark app, I told the seller I'd never been so happy to see a pair of e-tickets. We got into a conversation about how excited we were for the return of baseball. Later, my phone buzzed with a notification from Venmo. He'd sent a few dollars back my way.

"First round's on me," read the message.  

Seating

The available seats are spaced out throughout the park. All the seats that aren't for sale are zip tied to discourage congregating. There are signs telling you to keep your mask on unless you're eating or drinking, but that seemed like a suggestion to many as the game wore on. My friend Will said there were team employees at field level enforcing the mask rule, but the only employee we saw in the upper deck was a single beer vendor (credit and debit, only) and Crane Kenney running an order of nachos to a fan (ok, not really).

I won't lie. I could get used to a Wrigley at 25 percent capacity. The empty row in front of me meant I could put my feet up at any time. We were on the aisle and I didn't have to stand to let a single person pass all afternoon.  

Plus as Jon Greenberg observed in his Opening Day observation column, it just felt like people were into the game more. Maybe some of that was the return of Arrieta, the inability to watch live baseball these past 18 months or just the absence of distractions from vendors and the casual fans who normally aren't into the game.

Whatever the case, it was all kinds of awesome. Give me the option to play Ballpark Thanos and, well ... I probably wouldn't hesitate to snap.

Food

There's a QR code at every seat that you're supposed to be able to scan and order food to your seat. But when we did it in the first inning, it just told us to go to the concession stand. We never tried again, though we did see fans successfully ordering food later in the game.

Hot dogs at the stand came with a prepackaged set of Chicago style condiments, including sport peppers in a small plastic Dixie cup. They also included a packet of ketchup, which was disappointing. If there were ever a chance to wean Chicago's catsup communists off that sacrilege and go full Gene and Jude's, these few months are probably it.

Beer? Getting a $12 tallboy was  — and this will really shock you — easy enough. There was no line at the cart behind the 200-level and we even got the full experience of the cranky old-timer telling us he had a migraine.

Prematurely removing my credit card from the reader probably didn't help.

Bathrooms

OK, so I know the real reason you've made it this far.

You want to know what they did with the troughs in the men's bathroom.

Turns out you really can't socially distance bathroom troughs. But the Cubs did try by putting a square of cardboard at head level between each "space" as it were. What this does, I really have no idea. I'd argue that any exposure to a Wrigley bathroom prior to 2020 gave you at least some sort of immunity.

And no, I didn't take pictures. I may do a lot of things in the name of journalism, but taking pictures in a Wrigley Field bathroom is not one of them.

Overall

Apart from the masks and being able to make a "he's safe!" motion without hitting anyone, I was shocked at how normal the game felt.

Which is good, because normal is what I went there looking for. After more than a year of sitting here and watching sports played in empty ballparks and stadiums, it really was a memorable experience to rejoin a previous life.

Trivia

True or false: Alex Rodriguez never homered against the Cubs.

Sunday's results
Bulls 115, Nets 107
Cubs 4, Pirates 3
Angels 7, Sox 4

Today's schedule
Brewers at Cubs (6:40, Marquee)
Sox at Mariners (9, NBCSCH)

News and results


Matt Nagy will be calling plays in 2021: You know, I'm starting to think the Bears hold all their press conferences on Fridays for a reason.

Final: Bulls 115, Nets 107

  • No KD or Harden for the Nets, but no apology necessary for the Bulls. The win snapped a six-game skid and finally got the Nikola Vucevic era in the win column.
  • Vucevic put up a 22-13 night while Zach LaVine scored 25.
  • Next: The 20-28 Bulls go back out on the road again for five games in seven days. Trip starts Tuesday in Indiana.

Final: Cubs 4, Pirates 3

  • Ian Happ homered, Kris Bryant went 2-for-3 with a walk and Zach Davies was solid as the Cubs took the opening series.
  • Craig Kimbrel followed a three-strikeout outing in a non-save situation on Saturday with two strikeouts on Sunday for his first save of the season. Don't know about you, but I'd be OK with a season of drama-free ninths.
  • Today: Trevor Williams gets his first start as a Cub against Milwaukee's Brett Anderson.

Final: Angels 7, Sox 4

  • The opening series in Anaheim featured a lot of entertainment. What it didn't feature was a lot of White Sox wins. The Angels took 3 of 4 games, including Sunday night's marathon that was decided in the bottom of the ninth on Jared Walsh's second home run of the night.
  • This one probably shouldn't have been that close. The Sox went 0-for-11 in scoring position but were still able to score four runs on three separate Angels errors.
  • Name an aspect of the game and the Sox had an issue with it at some point in Los Angeles. The one undisputed bright spot was Yermin Mercedes getting going a historic 8-for-8 to start the season, though he did come back to earth a bit with a 1-for-5 night on Sunday
  • Today: Sox head up to Seattle for a three-game set before Thursday's opener at Sox Park. Carlos Rodon gets his first start of the season against Justus Sheffield.
  1. SportsCenter finally acknowledged the existence of the Sox and did a great feature on Nancy Faust and "Na Na Na Na" ESPN
  2. Adam Hoge says no one is winning the battle between the Bears and Bears Twitter. NBC Sports Chicago
  3. Why Hawks defenseman Ian Mitchell wears a Pirates hat, even though he's not a Pirates fan. Sun-Times
  4. How an innovative academy let the Fire players improve their mental strength. Hot Time in Old Town
  5. Michael Jordan fans went after LeBron for his SpaceJam 2 lineup and the results were pretty funny. Comicbook.com

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