The familiar sights, sounds, and smells (good and bad) were there yesterday morning at Wrigley Field for the Cubs workout prior to today’s season opener against the Nationals. One thing was out of place, “I don’t ever remember seeing ivy on the wall on opening day,” head groundskeeper Roger Baird said. That’s right, when the Cubs take the field today, April 5th, there will be green ivy on the walls. Of course it’s nowhere near as lush as it would be in the heart of the summer but it’s still a welcome sight for fans and players alike.
The ballpark looks different; there are a number of changes that fans will get to see up close and personal today. The obvious one is the new Budweiser patio section in right field. A splash of modern in the form of a giant scrolling LED scoreboard is located down the right field line just above the right field wall. The position of said scoreboard left some players to wonder about how that new feature will coincide with fans and home run balls in the basket, “That’s going to be nightmare, people trying to jump over and ‘Curious George’ it down in the basket,” Baker said with a laugh. “It looks like a cool place to watch the game though.”
Growing up, one of the first things seen at Wrigley Field was the huge red roof in left center field on Waveland Avenue. It was impossible to miss, the Budweiser sign was a staple for many years at Wrigley, although it was in private hands so technically it wasn’t “apart” of Wrigley, but it was for fans. Well, it’s back, in a slightly smaller form as a “roof” on a Budweiser kiosk that is located in right field on the Budweiser patio. Another change that will catch the eyes of fans is the door in right center now has a giant Target on it, as in a Target logo, but it’s just asking to be part of some sort of giveaway if a player hits the target.
There have also been a number of changes behind the scenes at Wrigley, and the Cubs are hoping that those are the ones that make the real difference. The new soft toss area under the left field bleacher now gives the Cubs two batting cage areas. Imagine that, a professional baseball team for all this time was using one cage to prepare for a game. “It’s nice because sometimes the cage (in right) is crowded,” Marlon Byrd said. “The (Ricketts family is) asking us questions and taking action. It’s great to see.” One other significant change is the relocation of the Cubs corporate offices. An old warehouse at Clark and Waveland has been rehabbed and now resembles what many employees never had, an office. The space is equipped with conference rooms and an actual break room for employees. All these changes are the start of what seems to be something very big in the very near future for Wrigley Field. Rahm Emanual, Chicago’s Mayor, said earlier this week that his office and the Cubs are in the final stages of agreeing to a major renovation of Wrigley Field. Should be exciting to see what the new regime has planned for the old ballpark, but for now we are only 6 hours away from the first pitch, go Cubs!
Pitctures from Wrigley (via Phil Velaszquez Chicago Tribune)
Thanks for reading,
– George Cotugno