Wrigley On A Whim (aka: The Hunt for the Wrigley 100th Commemorative) – Balls 247-251 (April 5, 2014)
Philadelphia Phillies 2 – Chicago Cubs 0
Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL
April 5, 2014
I received an tweet from one of my friends with a link to a very sad (yet perfect news for a ballhawk) article on the attendance at the Twins/White Sox games (non-Opening Day): http://deadspin.com/white-sox-games-are-eerily-empty-1557725119 Wow – attendance in the HUNDREDS (even though the paid total was 11K). Which got me thinking…
Why not go with my original plan and go on opening weekend?! The plummeting prices and friends in Chicago made perfect sense; keeping the hit to the wallet as light as possible AND gunning for a commemorative. So with just over 24 hours until we needed to depart for Chicago, we contacted our friends, got confirmation that they would be around, and we planned a killer quasi-30th birthday extravaganza.
Friday, April 4, 2014:
Around lunch time I decided to check out the Chicago Cubs website, get more info on Wrigley, things to do/see, and feel out “what to expect”. I had been to Wrigley only one time prior (5 or so years ago), but never ballhawked there. I was nervous. I found the Season Ticket Holder Page and a list of the ticket representatives, then decided to reach out and see if I could have a couple of questions answered.
- More info about the Wrigley Tours
- Are they using the commemorative baseballs already?
I suggest that if you are looking at purchasing season tickets at Wrigley (which I would if I lived int he area) or have any ticket-related questions, contact the VERY friendly Tom Fitzgerald. Tom not only answered my questions with lightning speed, but we also talked on the phone and I ended up getting a couple of tickets for the Wrigley Tour – it was the first day that tours were given, since some construction limited them to start once the season began. I will probably say it a few more times, but Tom was AMAZING! Not only is he funny, but when we finally met up, I got the sense that he was doing something that he is really passionate about and makes him happy. (Though, not to steal from his thunder, the other employees of the Cubs that we encountered also had the same enthusiasm… more on that later.) So once we were both done with work, packed and ready to go, we made the 7-ish hour trip from the Minneapolis suburbs to 2 miles from Wrigley Field – prime location (well chosen, friends).
Saturday, April 5, 2014:
How can anyone be crabby when you wake up to a smiling puppy waking you up? Even if you got less than the ideal amount of sleep, due to a late arrival and a ballhawks internal clock that prevents them from being late to events (OK, “incredibly early” for those non-baseball fanatics), waking up like this was wonderful. We jumped on the train and took a short ride to the Addison:
I have no problem admitting to the fact that I love the two oldies – Wrigley and Fenway. The history is incredible, and in a few moments we’d be ushered into the stadium by a man who truly made you believe that he was bleeding Cubby blue and he was proud of it!
This is “Tom the Tour Guide”, not to be confused with ‘Tom the Ticket Rep”. Tom told us of the rich history of the most important thing at the ballpark – WRIGLEY FIELD. Sure, there were some stories of the events and teams that took the field (mostly wearing the Cubs logo), but much like my purpose of this trip, the tour and the baseball I was chasing was all about Wrigley. Having 100 years of history makes it a great tour, though the one downfall is making it all fit into a 90 minute digestible walk. At this point in the entry, I urge you to visit THIS LINK and buy tickets for the tour. Tom’s stories were worth the price of admission alone, let alone getting into the actual stadium and viewing all that we did… and also getting to see some early BP… and maybe getting a ball?
As you can tell by the string of photos above, we got to view the field from many different angles. We started over on the 1st base side, moved over to the bleachers, walked up to the upper-deck area, and saw many other behind the scenes things as we were told stories about the previous owners and history/infamy that makes this special place the ballpark it is today. Then, even on a game day, we got to GO ON THE FIELD!!
Admittedly, this is a fake out, since I am not on the field yet. But a smaller group went in just before us, which allowed our group to take in the area behind home and over by the Phillies’ (visitors’) dugout. While BP was going on and I had a good vantage point, I used this time to scope out how I was going to go “ball hunting” in this new park when “IT HAPPENED”…
After taking a weird hop, a ball rolled over from the cage to the awkward corner towards the on-deck circle at the end of the Phillies’ dugout. The ball was within reach, but a security guard was walking over and I did not want to get kicked out before even officially attending the game. He came over and I asked politely for the ball, which he understandably said, “Sorry, I can’t.” This is a standard security guard line, since they are told not to interfere with the team equipment. I asked if I could just reach over the low brick barrier and he smiled, bent over, picked up the ball, and says, ‘You know what, here you go.”
I could tell that it was pearly as I looked at it from a couple feet away, but only saw the “Rawlings” from above. I was hoping it’d be a Wrigley ball, but couldn’t confirm until I saw it in the worker’s hand. I was THRILLED!! My mission was complete, the tour was amazing, the city of Chicago was a gracious host, and we were only a few hours into our mini-vacation. My wife looked over at this point, saw my face, and could tell that I had achieved what I was hoping/wishing for. I probably looked like an 8 year-old given a bag of gummy worms, a large soda, and a new bike, but I didn’t – this was bliss! After my early Christmas present was in hand, we walked out onto the dirt and got to watch some more Cubs BP. The smell of grass, the cracks of the bats, and players joking around with one another made me realize something… Baseball is real in 2014 again! It’s kind of strange that my personal “Opening Day” was not held on a team’s opening day, even though I am going to a “Home Opener” (tomorrow). Though it’s not a “hard statistic”, this just seems like yet another “typical baseball stat” where someone says an interesting thing that has not happened before, because of the infinite possibilities that this game has to offer. Here’s ball #1 shown again with the marquee in the background, once we wrapped up our tour:
What’s that? You want to buy a ticket to the tour but don’t want to scroll up? OK, here’s THE LINK again. I called “Tom the Ticket Rep” once our tour was done, since we both wanted to say a quick hello – I owe this man so much!
If you stumble across this guy at Wrigley, say hello, give him a high five, and buy him some Cracker Jack. I normally save my thank yous until the end, but it’s safe to say that I owe the most thanks to the man in this photo. If not for the All-Star Game coming to Target Field, this would have easily been the best experience at any baseball stadium this year.
Once inside the stadium for the game itself, I decided to run over to the Cubs dugout area to see if I could add another ball to the collection. Not knowing that you needed tickets for the otherwise unrestricted area, I was forced to move away from the dugout and down towards the bullpen on the 3rd baseline. Two workers were picking up three balls that were on the front side of the screen in the photograph below and tossing them into that Cubs-branded bag. I asked for one and was given my second commemorative of the day!
After the Cubs were done I got in position to snag a couple from the Phillies. I was doubting that they’d be commemorative, but baseballs are baseballs. I made a sign for Ben Revere (fromer Twin) that said “Rev Run”, so I thought that this would help my chances. Jonathan Papelbon jogged back into the dugout and on the way in I asked for a ball that was in the grass just outside of the dugout.
Bingo! Three for a “new stadium where neither team is the Twins” made it a personal best for me (previously Coors Field from 7/4/13 – Dodgers/Rockies).
I wish I knew who it was, but as the Phillies were wearing pullovers and not just their BP jerseys, it made identification quick tough. It was actually chilly, being int he low 40s, but come on! We need some numbers here!
‘Twas a beautiful pearl that was rolled to me once he entered the dugout. I motioned for a ball, he showed that he didn’t have one, but I could tell he was looking as he made his way down the steps. Thanks, mystery man! GAME TIME:
I was hoping to score a game ball, especially since it’d look pretty with the new Wrigley logo, so that is why I bought seats in row two of section 31 (seats 3 + 4 to be exact, “Clarence!”). But with two Wrigley balls in my drawstring backpack, I was not about to tackle anyone for one… or so I thought. The 3rd inning ended with Ryan Howard making the putout and so I shouted and made myself stick out with motions. I was confident he saw me and was aiming for me when he tossed it, but my balance and complete disregard for my surroundings saw me reach further than anticipated for a ball tossed not so perfectly my way…
Though this picture looks pretty, the means to “catch” it was not. I may have fallen over into a group of young guys that were there more for the liquid refreshments than the game itself. Oh well, only my knees, ego, and their seats took the real brunt of the awkward collision. After that catch early on, I was done with any type of active ballhawking until the game was completed. I took in scenes like these:
Although it was sad when the game was over, at least my wife was happy that she could now warm up. (My adrenaline kept me more than warm enough.) We did both have a great time and for more reasons than just the Cubs, would consider moving to Chicago. Maybe it’s the incredibly long Minnesota winter we just had (6-18″ of snow the morning before we left), but things seemed beautiful in the largest city in the Midwest. Here is a sad photo as we made our way back to the train:
Thank you, Wrigley!!!
Good news (for us at least): the trip wasn’t over. This was just the tip of the iceberg. After the game was done and as Jael regained feeling in her toes and hands, we tried some delicious vegan pizza from Dimo’s and even got vegan Brownies. You know the brownies are good when our non-vegan hosts even liked them. Before and after the pizza we also played games – something that is a shared passion between the couples. The friends we visited have a cool background story – well, one has a cool background story, and this is it:
This is my college friend, a man I once shared a room with for a summer. Not only was I friends with him, but I was actually introduced to him by my wife. She was friends with him from high school (French class) and since they by chance went to the same college, we all kind of met and hit it off. I ended up meeting them both within the same month. Never did I actually dream that I would like one so much to room with them, but I also liked the other enough to marry her! As for the female companion to the man above, she is pretty awesome, too. Though we haven’t known her as long, we knew she was cool when she could handle the awkward “intimidation” that Jael and I give off. OK, it’s not at all intimidation, but more awkward chaos (sometimes even comedy). They are a great couple to play games with, share a meal, and just be yourself. Plus, they let us sleep in their place and play with their animals. HOW COOL IS THAT?!
Our friend’s wife ran a half-marathon today (as we were leaving) and here she is in action. I may be crazy for snagging baseballs, but she takes the cake. Running 13.1 miles (and even completing a full marathon)?! That’s true craziness.
Oh, it was also nice seeing a lake without ice on it. Thanks, Lake Michigan! A road trip entry wouldn’t be complete without a “but what fun drink/snack did you find?” photo. Well, here’s one from my favorite non-Minnesota convenience store:
Squirt Slurpee, Fiery Hot chips, and Chocolate Shortbread cookies. (All vegan-friendly.) I love you, 7 Eleven!
- Tom Fitzgerald – Words cannot express my gratitude. You made the Chicago Cubs organization an instant favorite in this baseball fan’s heart.
- Tom the Tour Guide – *Slow Claps* for a tour well done. I am sure that all of the tour guides are more than capable, but if you get lucky enough to get Tom, you will be in for a treat.
- My wife – Again, this non-baseball fan accompanied me on a baseball mini-road trip. I’m glad she at least appreciates the history in Wrigley and Fenway. I know she shares a spot for those two in the tiny baseball section of her mind.
- Dustin and Molly – Wonderful hosts that did a super job of trying to sell us on moving to Chicago. We will have to seriously consider it; it’s a tough and large undertaking, but we felt the attraction to the city/area.
PS: Did you buy your ticket to tour Wrigley yet? You just might score a baseball without even going to a game! Even if you don’t get one, you still win, since you got to TOUR WRIGLEY FIELD!!