Tampa Bay Rays At Chicago Cubs, Game 1 Of 2

Today has been a rough day, so this might be quick and dirty. I didn’t sleep well last night out of excitement, and then we wound up spending most of the day in some very hot and humid weather. Sunblock helped (I still got burnt!), but I am absolutely exhausted. I also didn’t wind up taking many photos; Wrigley is an old ballpark and we were 8 rows from the field. The seats are forward-facing, rather than tilted at an angle for game-viewing purposes, so anyone taller than me (which is just about anyone, really) provided me with a bit of an obscured view. That said? I had an absolute blast. If you haven’t been to Wrigley, you really need to fix that at your earliest convenience. It’s a small park, but the crowds are fun, just about everyone is wearing Cubs gear, and everyone there seemed super friendly and chatty.

Karen and I got up very early in order to take the train into town. We had to take the Metra from Wheaton into Ogilvie Station, which is the end of that line, then walk a bit to the station on Randolph to grab the L. The L does not seem as awful as a lot of people claim, though I only rode it twice, and will only ride it twice again on Friday. I possibly have a sweeter view of it as a public transportation device than those who ride it every day.

As we traveled along the line, we collected more and more Cubs fans until the train was pretty packed and we reached the Addison stop, and it was time to get off. We walked down some steps off the outdoor platform and through some turnstiles, taking shuffling steps behind a bunch of our fellow fans. It was not until we reached the corner of the park that I realized how hot it was going to be, and how many people were there and in how small a space. The sidewalks were packed on all sides of the streets around the stadium, a slowly moving sea of blue and white and red. We made our way down the sidewalk through the crowd and then to a merchandise store just across the street from the home plate entrance and the big red sign. The crowd in the store was pretty thick too,  but I finally found a decent shirt with what Karen kept referring to as the “angry bear” on it, made of light material and with a flattering cut. I paid for it, threw it on, and we went back out to see if the crowd had abated. It had not. Just opposite the park though, was a bar called The Cubby Bear that seemed to not have a lot of people around it (and we had around 15 minutes to kill anyway), so we opted for a drink while the lines went down. It turned out to be a good idea; the place was a mostly empty music venue with air conditioning and friendly bar staff. When we finished our beers, the lines to get into the park had gone down significantly. It was time.

IMG_8217IMG_8218IMG_8220The Chicago River, the L tunnel, Wrigley Field.

We got our bags searched, went through the metal detectors, and started thinking about our food and drink options. Wrigley is surrounded on the outside by a tunnel, like Miller Park, but the tunnel goes all the way around; there is no view of the field from the concessions/merchandise area. Thinking we could make it all the way around the field, we tried, but got cut off by staff near a left field area; apparently, you don’t go out to what would be LF/CF/RF in Safeco without tickets for those sections. I am thinking this is because the seating out there is a bit of a free for all, as I mentioned earlier. Foiled, Karen brought up first game certificates, so we asked a staffer about that, were given directions, and got my official newbie paperwork. Then it was time for food and drink. And what are you going to have at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL? A Chicago style hot dog, of course:

IMG_8221It was immediately pointed out to be that I commited a faux pas by putting any amount of ketchup on the thing, but if that’s not how you eat it, don’t provide ketchup. I’m solid with my choice. It was also absolutely delicious. Those little peppers have just enough kick to make a difference; and to warrant a vodka lemonade slushy (which is extremely popular here, clearly, they’re everywhere). After that, it was out to the seats, which were absolutely amazing to sit in. Historic Wrigley Field!

IMG_8222IMG_8223IMG_8224IMG_8225You can see the bleachers known as “the rooftops” across the street over the outfield.

The Rays gave a worthy effort, pulling up three runs in the first few innings of the game. And for a while, it looked like the Cubs might be facing a shutout. But there was some sort of announcement or ad indicating that if the Cubs scored in the bottom of the 6th, everyone would get free Italian beef sandwiches from Buono’s. Thinking surely this could not happen, I settled in and just took in some of the atmosphere. Then it did; Jon Jay hit a dinger to plate two runners already on, tying the game. This seemed to light a fire under the crowd, and the air had a bit of a spark to it suddenly. That might have been the fact that we were sat in the direct sunlight and I felt like I was on fire and in a hot shower the entire game, but I choose to believe it was Cubbies magic! With two men on, Ian Happ struck a single up the middle to plate both of them. More energy in the air. Anthony Rizzo put the fork in the Rays with a two run double, and the game was complete at a final score of 7-3. Well done everyone!

IMG_8226IMG_8227IMG_8228IMG_8229IMG_8230IMG_8236IMG_8237IMG_8238It was very hard to get pictures without someone’s head popping up in front of me, or a food vendor blocking my view. The hazards of different ballparks, I suppose. We also got treated to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”, sung by ex-Bears kicker Robbie Gould, from the press box below a caricature of, who else, Harry Carray.

IMG_8232After the last out, I got treated to what is apparently tradition at Wrigley, a three-minute singalong to a catchy little ditty called “Go, Cubs, Go”. The words to the chorus are not difficult to pick up, and everyone sings; it’s really fun. I may have to brush up on my lyrics to the rest of the song, in case Friday’s game turns out as well as today’s did. Finally, everyone around us was “flying the W”; in spite of the difficulty in seeing, it is easily one of the best ballpark experiences I’ve had. Cubs fans are really one of a kind, and you really don’t get an idea of that until you’re there.

IMG_8239IMG_8240IMG_8241IMG_8242We took our time waiting for people to file out; small parks and small walkways equals a longer wait time and more of a bottleneck getting both into and out of the stadium. To take the path of least resistance, we wound around the left field to see whatever we could see. We wound up seeing all the statues and the yard on the street side of center field. There were shirt and merchandise vendors, street musicians, panhandlers, fans, and general chaos. But people’s moods were light, I didn’t see any fights or any of the things I might have been warned I might see. And with my blue shirt with the red bear on it, I blended in perfectly. I felt like I fit in, and like people were welcoming.

IMG_8219IMG_8243IMG_8244IMG_8245IMG_8250IMG_8251As we came back around full circle, we squished back into the Addison St L station with everyone else. We passed more shirt vendors, and an overweight fellow in sweatpants selling JellO shots off of his porch for $2. I didn’t see any takers for this, which is probably for the best. A quick walk back through the city to Ogilvie Station and back on the train, and back to Karen’s for some of the best Indian food I’ve had in ages. For being such a homogenous area (white folks, mainly), Wheaton has some great ethnic food; I have also had tacos from Fire It Up! which is a fantastic place that locally sources all the stuff they serve from around the area.

Tomorrow is the Art Institute, some sort of dinner, and then Hamilton at the Private Bank Theater, before we go home and wake up early again on Friday to take in another Cubs game, this time against the Pittsburgh Pirates. We’ll be sitting in the upper deck and in the shade (thankfully), and I should have plenty of time to recap that one; Saturday is going to be a bit of downtime for both of us. I think we need it; I am going to need a vacation from my vacation!

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