By: Alex Patt
On April 4th, 2021 I did something I had not done in over a year…attend a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Normally I go to roughly 3-6 games a season, but the COVID pandemic had kept myself and everyone else from attending games at the Friendly Confines in 2020. The last game I had attended prior to this year was September 2nd, 2019 against the Mariners with my college buddy Chris.
I got lucky and snagged one of the last available tickets (waited in the virtual waiting room on the Cubs website to get in to claim tickets for about 30 minutes) for the April 4th game against the Pirates. This would also be the first time ever I attended a Cubs game alone, as I bought only one ticket for myself.
Going to the ballpark was certainly different than normal times. A crowd of about 10,200 with social distancing protocols and mobile concession ordering was just part of it. The unoccupied seats were clamped shut by plastic ties, the gates featured devices where you scan the barcode on your mobile ticket to enter, and of course mandatory masks. Vendors were walking around selling beer and hot dogs, but to no surprise there were not nearly as many as normal. As expected there were signs everywhere about amenity information, social distance markers on the ground, and mask-wearing reminders. Also, good on the Cubs for providing plenty of hand sanitizing stations around the park.
Honestly, as much as I love being at Wrigley Field with 40,000+ packed into the stands, the smaller crowd was kind of nice. You are not elbow-to-elbow with people, there is no need to constantly stand up to let people pass in your row, getting in and out of the park gates was incredibly easy, and NO BATHROOM LINES!!
The other thing about the crowd was that it felt like it was composed of real passionate baseball fans. Let’s be real, as much as Cubs fans love the team and the game, in typical times there is normally a chunk of people who go to Wrigley for the “experience” and not the game. Not trying to judge, but it’s the truth. It felt like everyone in the crowd was living and dying with every pitch. There were plenty of “Javy!” chants when he came to the plate, and cheers/clapping of encouragement when a Cubs pitcher had a two-strike count on a hitter with two outs in an inning. Cannot fail to mention the clapping for Anthony Rizzo when he walked up to “Intoxicated”. I believe when tickets went on sale, the people who jumped on them were the die-hard fans. The feeling of excitement being back at the park helped create a great atmosphere. Again, not trying to judge those who go to Wrigley just to see it but it was just an observation.
The last thing I wanted to mention about the crowd is that it felt much larger than 25%. The way the fans were spread out around the park and how loud people got when something good happened made it feel like it was at least half full.
Going back to the game and park experience itself.
I arrived at the park about 45 minutes before first pitch. I got my first real good look at the newly renovated press box and the new netting which had been extended. It was also the first game I ever attended where Gary Pressy was not playing the organ. The new organist John Benedeck, who is a very cool guy btw, was playing and he did a great job. Also worth noting that this was the first time I had sat in the lower level seating area at Wrigley Field since it was rebuilt in the 2017-2018 offseason. The area has pretty much the same layout as it was before, just newer seats with nicer concession areas below and felt a wee bit more spacious. Normally I would have walked around the entire concourse area, but with the pandemic still taking place I practiced caution and just stayed in my “neighborhood”.
The weather was beautiful with warm temperatures and sunny skies. There was a bit of a crosswind as the flags on the scoreboard and foul poles were whipping to my left. It felt like mid-May outside rather than early April. I have been to several opening week games at Wrigley and most of them were cold and misty, so this was a nice change.
Quick shout out to Greg Braggs who came over to say hi to me in the seventh inning!
Cubs won 4-3. Zach Davies made his Cubs debut and threw 5.2 innings of two-run ball. He was cruising through the first four innings but gave up a two-run home run to Colin Moran after getting two quick outs in the fifth. The Cubs only got three hits but an Ian Happ home run, Kris Bryant RBI single, Joc Pederson fielders choice, and Javier Baez reaching on an error were enough to generate the needed runs. Craig Kimbrel got his second save of the season, striking out two and getting a lineout to end it. Sadly I missed the Happ home run because I was in the dang bathroom…but oh well.
For me this was an amazing experience. Having the priveledge of being part of the first group of Cubs fans to get back to Wrigley Field was certainly special. The feeling of walking up the gate on the corner of Sheffield and Addison was like that of being a little kid walking into the park for the first time. It was like a new experience while feeling like I never left at the same time. Weird explaining it, but that is honestly how it felt. It would not have mattered how different the experience would potentially be…or if the Cubs lost 15-0 that afternoon, just being back at the ballpark was going to be amazing no matter what.
I am so glad we got to #Cubtogether again. Thanks Cubs for the amazing time! More to come this year and beyond!