Wrigley Field: baseball as it was intended to be
Every sport seems to have that magical stadium that defines the essence of the game. Way back in the day, it was the Boston Garden in the NBA. For decades, Lambeau Field in Green Bay has been the hallowed hall of football. The MLB’s signature ballpark is a little more debatable. There are many people who would probably say Fenway Park. Some might even say new Yankees Stadium is that place despite only being around for a few years. For many others, Wrigley Field might also be that place. I don’t actually know if I can answer the question of which ballpark is the signature stadium of the MLB. What I can say is that Wrigley Field really captures the aura of what baseball is about better than any ballpark I have been to so far.
One trip around the outside of Wrigley Field will tell you so much about what it’s all about. You will see kids and adults tossing the baseball around as they wait for the gates to open. I haven’t been to every ballpark in the country, but I am pretty sure you will not see that anywhere else. You also get a firsthand look at the neighborhood which is filled with houses that function as an extension of the ballpark itself with it’s stadium seating on the roofs. They even have a number you can call in order to get “into the game” with these seats. The history of the team is celebrated via the “walk of fame” filled with familiar Cubs names of yesteryear. The trip around the ballpark leads you to the famous Wrigley Field sign at the front in all of it’s red and white glory. I didn’t even know that they hung up the flag of the opposing team out front along with a Cubs flag. I thought that was rather cool and gracious of them.
After touring the remarkable outside neighborhood of Wrigley Field, we ventured inside as the gates finally opened. One thing that stood out to my wife and I was how kind the Cubs staff was. The ushers were very welcoming and encouraged fans to go all the way down to the first row of seats in order to be close to the field and the players. The only other stadium i’ve ever been to that felt this welcoming was Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Several of the Cubs staff/ushers even took our picture in order to commemorate the experience. Unfortunately, the whole package of pictures they offer runs for forty dollars, but atleast you can get one of them for a fairly reasonable price of ten dollars. How could we not buy atleast one?
One of the coolest parts of the night was being so close the Pirates players as they warmed up for the game. So many ballparks do a good job of getting you close to the game and the players these days, but I don’t think i’ve ever felt so close. In fact, my persistent wife was even able to get our Pirates hat signed by Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. A very cool moment that has now forced that particular hat into retirement. A small but amazing moment that captures what Wrigley Field is all about.
One thing that makes Wrigley Field stand out from most other ballparks of today is that there isn’t very much to see in the concourse area inside. Actually, if you don’t take the time to walk around outside before the gates open, you will miss out on a lot of the tributes to Cubs history. This includes statues of Harry Caray, Billy Williams, and other Cubs greats. Wrigley Field is about baseball. Not just celebrating it, but watching it. It is a throwback, old time baseball experience. Much in the same way as Fenway Park. You go to see the game. Even the new scoreboards don’t detract from the old time feel. The only sign that doesn’t fit is the Nuveen sign out in left field. A very small downside to what is otherwise a beautiful place to see a game.
As mentioned, there isn’t a whole lot to experience outside of the game. This goes for the food as well. You do get to taste the signature Cubs Dog and they do have a souvenir soda cup. However, you will have to keep buying cups for the rest of the night as they don’t offer refills. I am all for the throwback feel of Wrigley Field, but they should update the souvenir cup situation with atleast 1 free refill per game. Another small argument is that they don’t provide a lid for your drink. This would also enhance the cup buying experience. As for merchandise, this is another thing you should probably do before you enter the ballpark. I know that there was a big store in the outside concourse area, but I am not sure if they had much inside. Due to the structure of the situation, we spent so much more time watching than we did walking around. Just as it was meant to be.
Between the organ music, seventh inning stretch (which gave me goosebumps), Cubs Dogs, outfield ivy, and enthusiastically chanting Cubs fans, Wrigley Field was an amazing experience. It was probably my favorite ballpark of our three city, four team ballpark tour. For me to sit here and say something was missing would be wrong. Considering the era that this field was built in, you almost have to appreciate the throwback quirks just as much as the features that make it great. If you are as big of a baseball fan as my wife and I are, I can’t emphasize the need to visit Wrigley Field any more than this. While there might clearly be some modern amenities missing, you will be greeted by the staff with a smile and positive attitude. You will be greeted with baseball in it’s most intimate and throwback form.