4/21/09 at Wrigley Field
Freezing, rainy, night game in April without batting practice? Not exactly ideal, but hey, this was my first trip to Wrigley Field in 11 years, and I was thrilled to be here:
My goal for the day was pretty simple: I wanted to snag at least four baseballs. You know how I’m doing the whole charity thing and getting people to pledge money for every ball? Well, at the start of the day, the total amount that I’d raised so far this season was $949.46. I had 84 pledges (ranging from one penny to one dollar) that added up $16.37 per ball. Basically, I calculated that I needed four more balls to pass the $1,000 mark; three balls would’ve left me a little more than a dollar short.
I had about two hours to kill before the ballpark was going to open–it really IS a “ballpark” as opposed to a “stadium”–so I walked all the way around it and took a ton of photos. This is what it looked like as my journey began:
It was great to be here after having checked out the new Yankee Stadium three days earlier. Talk about a contrast! The new stadium is the pinnacle of luxury, corporate greed, and architectural wizardry. Wrigley Field, on the other hand, is old and dumpy and simple–and therefore even more beautiful.
Here’s the players’ parking lot:
Here’s a look down Waveland Avenue…
…and this is the view from baseball’s most famous intersection:
When I reached the bleacher entrance in center field, I backed up just enough to be able to get a shot with both foul poles (which you can see through the trees):
This is what it looks like on Sheffield Avenue, which runs behind the right field bleachers:
See the gate below the foul pole?
It provides a peek into the stadium:
So nice! (The grounds crew was readjusting the tarp. I got excited for a second when I first looked in and saw infield dirt.) AT&T Park has a similar feature. (This might surprise you, but the new Yankee Stadium does NOT provide a free glimpse onto the field.)
Here’s the outside of Wrigley near the right field corner:
It was painfully cold. I saw my breath all day. The temperature was in the low 40s and felt like the 20s. My face got so cold at one point that I was slurring my words. (Has this ever happened to anyone?) So…I stopped talking.
This was the view as I headed toward the home plate entrance:
Just a little further…
…until I’d made it full circle:
I still had an hour to kill. The rain picked up. Thankfully there was an overhang at the gate. People were talking about how the game might get canceled.
All of a sudden, I heard a familiar voice from behind. It was Nick Yohanek, aka The Happy Youngster:
I had NO idea he was gonna be there, and in fact he didn’t have any idea either until the last second when his (very understanding) wife told him she didn’t mind if he made the trip from Milwaukee. That’s where he’s from. It’s only about an hour and a half from Chicago.
I’d met Nick for the very first time two weeks earlier in Toronto. Super cool guy. It was good to see him again, but of course it meant we’d have to make an effort to stay out of each other’s way.
Look how big the crowd was as the gates were going up:
I think the large crowd might’ve had something to do with the limited giveaway: a Carlos Zambrano “no-hitter statue.” (THAT’S really why I went to this game.)
This was my view as I ran inside:
As you can see in the distance in the photo above, there were a couple Cubs playing catch in shallow left field. I didn’t end up getting the ball from them, but I’m glad to say that someone who reads this blog did. The ball went to a guy named Adam (aka “cubs0110″) who had emailed me some Wrigley tips in the days leading up to this trip, so it was well-deserved.
Nick made his way to the right field side as a few Reds took the field. I decided to hold my ground for another minute or two, and as a result I ended up getting a ball in an incredibly random and unexpected way. Someone on the Reds, for some unknown reason, skimmed a ball across the field/tarp right in my direction. Luckily I saw it coming once it got halfway to me, so I lunged over the wall in the front row and scooped it up. The ball was absolutely soaked. The arrow in the following photo shows the direction that it had been rolled:
Is that weird or what?
I figured I wasn’t going to get any luckier than that on the left field side, so I headed back toward the seats behind the plate and walked out to the right field foul line. I stopped along the way to take a photo of the beautiful cross aisle (and the random row of seats right in the middle):
I got two balls tossed to me within the next 15 minutes. The first came from Nick Masset, and the second was from from Bronson Arroyo. Nothing fancy about it. There weren’t too many other Reds fans so it was easy. This left me one ball short of my goal.
Time out for a second…
Do you remember the Watch With Zack game I did on 9/24/07 at Shea Stadium? My clients that day were a couple of ladies from Chicago named Kelly and Jen. Kelly (the bigger baseball fan of the two) and I have kept in touch ever since, and we’ve become friendly enough that I’m now sitting in her living room as I type this. She gave me a ticket to this game at Wrigley in exchange for my Zambrano statue. You can see her and Nick in the following photo.
Here I am with Kelly:
It was only 6pm. There was an hour ’til game time, and there wasn’t any action on the field, so I explored the street level concourse. THIS, my friends, is what a real ballpark looks like:
Gotta love the cute little concession stand with a support beam in the middle:
There were two ways to get to the field level seats:
Very interesting stadium design. Fenway Park (which is just a few years older than Wrigley) is similar. We’ll never ever see anything like this built again.
There was a band playing in the concourse as people passed by:
Despite the loathsome weather, the atmosphere was festive and jolly. I loved the imperfections in the design and condition of Wrigley Field. Check out the dents and pipes and ducts and chipped paint in the photo below:
The path to the upper deck was interesting as well. This was the first ramp, and I actually had to show my upper deck ticket to go up it:
I turned right at the top of the ramp and found myself in a web of metal beams above the seats:
RFK Stadium (I only went there once on 7/5/05) was similar, and again, you’ll never see anything like this.
Two more ramps…
…and then a final push to the top:
Chain-link fences are not pretty, but they make you feel like you’re in a ballpark as opposed to a mall.
The upper deck has a great cross aisle…
…but unfortunately there weren’t any foul balls that landed there. The balls either went to the first few rows of the upper deck or flew onto the roof.
I sat with Kelly and Adam for a bit, then sat on my own, then snuck down to the field level (where I came five feet from a foul ball), and finally made my way down to the Cubs’ dugout in the top of the ninth:
It wasn’t hard to get down there. There are ushers at every staircase, and they try to be strict and keep people out, but they’re old and slow and unprepared for brazen New Yorkers. I have nothing against old people. I plan to live until I’m at least 105, and I’ll be snagging baseballs and demanding respect right up until the end. I’m just sayin’…there are lots of employees trying to enforce lots of rules, but it’s all pretty haphazard.
I won’t tell you how many balls Nick ended up with, or where he ended up sitting during the game. You’ll have to read his blog to find out, but I will say that he totally beat the system.
Final score: Cubs 7, Reds 2.
• 4 balls at this game
• 62 balls in 8 games this season = 7.75 balls per game.
• 577 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 147 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 3,882 total balls
• 85 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $16.62 pledged per ball
• $66.48 raised at this game
• $1,030.44 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
At tonight’s Cubs game, I’ll be sitting in a “bleacher box” seat in fair territory near the right field foul pole. I might wander to left field when righties come to bat, but definitely look for me if/when a lefty yanks one down the line.