Last week was no ordinary Saturday because I experienced Chicago as a tourist and a sports fan. I made new friends, experienced public transportation in a major city, and crossed a dream off my bucket list – visiting Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play a game. Thanks to Chicago Cubs tickets provided by The Cubs through my awesome friend Meredith (Suburban Coupon Mom), Saturday, May 4, 2013, was one for the memory books.
This morning, a little after 9 AM, I boarded the blue line train at Rosemont, or the “L” as the locals call it, hopped on the Addison bus, and arrived at my final destination, Wrigley Field. Before today, I’d never ridden on a train, and when the Intercontinental shuttle dropped me off, I felt like a kid that got separated from their parents in a crowd. Also known as, terrified!
I wasn’t really sure where to go, or what to do. I bought a transit card, followed other people that were walking upstairs, and hoped that I was in the right place. My day improved significantly, when I asked two ladies wearing Cubs shirts, if I was going the right way to the ballpark.
Lynn and Kim, Cubs fanatics, had driven down from Iowa and knew the routine for getting to Wrigley from train to bus. Lucky for me, they were determined to make sure I made it, got some great photos outside the ballpark, and knew where to find affordable Cubs gear for the kids. Without their guidance, I probably would have ended up in Michigan, or worse, South Chicago, not an ideal destination when traveling alone!
After getting off the bus, and realizing we were across the street from Wrigley Field, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had the goofy grin of a happy kid on Christmas morning, that woke up to discover they’d hit the jackpot. Actually, several days later I’m still smiling when I think about my experience, and how much fun I had, even though the Reds beat the Cubs 6-4.
Fun fact: Wrigley Field, nicknamed the “Friendly Confines” is the 2nd oldest ballpark in the major leagues (1914)
Among the things that Wrigley is known for include: the ivy covered brick outfield wall (as you can see its still brown, but as spring arrives it will turn green) planted in 1937; winds that blow in off Lake Michigan; the red sign over the entrance; its hand turned scoreboard, and the last major league park to have lights installed for night games, lights were added in 1988.
Game time wasn’t until noon, and while Wrigleyville was starting to get busy, there were plenty of photo opps, before the crowds became gridlocked. So, I posed by Ernie Banks statue, gave Harry Caray’s statue ”a one, a two, a three,” and absorbed some of the energy from the fans as they headed to the stadium.
Tip: Save a few bucks. You can bring food and non-alcoholic beverages like water and “pop” into the stadium as long as they’re un-opened.
Tip: You can tour the park, but tours on non game days are better, because you’ll go to the press-box, the locker rooms, the dugout and the field, for $25.
Tip: First time guests can go to Fan Services and request a first visit certificate. Its a picture of the park with your name, date, and the opponent. Go early, when they run out, they’re gone.
Once inside the stadium, I roamed around a little, looking for my section, and something to eat. I knew I wanted to try a Chicago dog, so I’m glad I had some cash on me. It was $6.50, cash only. I goofed up a little here, I ordered it all the way, and they handed me a Vienna beef wiener on a poppy seed bun with grilled onions.
Tip: Beers run about $7.75, cash at your seat or credit at the stands. You can buy Old Style, Bud, Bud Light, etc. but no Miller Lite is sold anywhere in the stadium.
A little confused, I headed to my seat and woofed down my dog, wondering why it didn’t have the bright green sweet pickle relish; dill pickle spear; tomato slices; pickled sport peppers; and celery salt. I thought those were required toppings on a “Chicago dog.” A little later, the three guys sitting next to me came back with loaded dogs, so I asked the guy, he laughed and said “Yeah, it’s confusing. You have to ask them about the toppings and then they point you to a hidden cart behind the stand.” WHAT!?
No way, my stomach had room for another one, so I chalked it up to a lesson learned. The game flew by so fast, I tried to sit back and absorb everything as much as possible. In the seventh inning stretch Chicago Bears players Edwin Williams, Steve Maneri and Gabe Miller, led us in singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
For the entire three plus hours, I had goosebumps, and they had nothing to do with the weather, but were related to the history, the atmosphere and living, what felt like a dream.
Actually, the sun was out, and for most of the game as long as you were sitting in the sun, the temperature was perfect. I’ve seen major league games at Camden Yards, old Yankees Stadium, Miller Park, and Minute Maid, but Wrigley Field is one of a kind. It’s the closest to feeling like you’re watching an old fashioned, game of ball in someone’s backyard. And the staff at Wrigley, are the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered in any college or professional stadium in my life!
When I told Lenore that this was my first visit to Wrigley, and asked her if she could take a few photos, she went above and beyond. She snapped a few shots, and asked me to check and see if they were acceptable or if I needed more. Then she told me I needed to run by fan services and see if they could issue me a first time visitor’s certificate. Best souvenir ever, and I wouldn’t have known about it without her. Plus, she said since my ticket was printed from the PC, for just $5 I could order an authentic ticket in my exact seat from that day, that would be mailed to me!
Fan services was great, everyone was smiling and helpful. After getting my certificate, I wandered around a few of the gift shops, and one of the clerks handed me a bag, and said “Here, put your certificate in the bag, to keep it from getting messed up.” That was so nice, and thoughtful of her.
Seeing a game played at Wrigley Field was on my “bucket list” because I wanted to experience the tradition and history. Now that I’ve crossed it off, I’ll return if given the chance, because of how friendly the environment is, and the way you feel like you’re treated like part of the Cubs family. With plans to undergo over $300 million in renovations this off season, changes are coming to Wrigley, I just hope you’re able to continue to make fans from near and far, feel as welcome as I did!
Tip: After the game the bars and restaurants in Wrigleyville are packed with fans and long lines for the restrooms. Check out Goose Island Brewery, order a pint of Cubby Blueberry, bathrooms are upstairs and there was no wait!