I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed to be shut out of Saturday's groundbreaking ceremony at Wrigley Field. The lack of proper press credentials or a $10,000 suit kept a handful of Cubs fans and me, misled into thinking there would be a ceremony on the corner of Clark and Addison on the street side of the gates.
Though understandable that a construction site is no place for a public event, Crain's Chicago Business reported:
The team will hold a ceremony on Oct. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Clark and Addison streets in Lakeview to officially kickoff the renovation.
The only clue in the press that I wasn't allowed in was their use of the term earlier in the article: "formal groundbreaking." As this is not the first occasion I have mistakenly ignored the word "formal" when attending an event, I was only slightly miffed that I couldn't witness people who don't usually use shovels awkwardly photo-opping at a ceremonial dig.
I understood why the public was left out; besides, I'd rather hang out with the fans who gathered outside the main entrance! This is Rhonda and Tom:
Rhonda is a 28-year season-ticket holder who was none too pleased that she wasn't able to attend the ceremony. Tom had heard on ABC news Saturday morning that the event was to take place on the corner of Clark and Addison as well, so they showed up. Rhonda voiced her disappointment, saying that they had been given a "song and dance" at the season ticket holder event the day before about how the Cubs were going to be doing more for the fans. Now we were all stuck complaining together outside the gates. If there's one thing Cubs fans love doing, it's complaining.
Still, even on the uninvited side of the wall, Rhonda, Tom and I had a wonderful conversation on a range of topics, underscored by Gary Pressy's welcoming organ music wafting through the crisp October morning chill that slowly burned away under what's left of this years sun. Local baseball teams lined the Cubbie Blue carpet as we watched unrecognizable dignitaries, the Mayor, Clark the mascot, and Kerry Wood, there with his son, stroll into the boarded-up ballpark to the sound of the Cubs' Dixieland band.
Kerry Wood's Back! Literally... his back.
Clark is all smiles! I would be too if I didn't have to wear pants outside!
Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerges with a booty of bats, books, his ceremonial shovel, and a plastic construction helmet, under the watchful protection of this handsome devil.
Cubs anthem singer Wayne Messmer stopped to take a picture of his wife Kathleen.
As the stream of dignitaries waned to a trickle, Rhonda, Tom and I decided to take a stroll around Wrigley. They hadn't seen any of the construction yet. Tom and I were taking photos of the bleacher wall rubble over the fence when who did we bump into? Wayne and Kathleen Messmer!
I of course insisted on a selfie, but not after chatting for about 45 minutes with Rhonda, Tom and the Messmers.
I've been listening to Wayne Messmer sing the anthem since I was in short pants and compare all other anthems to his. But during this past season, there was a Sunday afternoon game, if I had to guess it was August 24 against the Orioles, where Wayne's voice reached a new transcendent level of vocal brilliance. I got chills listening to him that day, and I took the opportunity on Saturday to tell him. In fact, I told him that I thought he had never been in better voice than this year. He replied, "Funny you say that, because I've never felt better!" He went on to talk about how he had found a placement outside of the throat to place the tone. As a fellow singer, teacher, and music director we talked shop for awhile. I tried to impress him with my Broadway credits just so he knew I was legit and was honored that he handed me his card, which is printed on handsomely rugged card stock. We talked about the renovations, singing, the rooftops, being in the Cubs family, the Chicago Wolves, restaurants, music, Wayne's unfortunate shooting (he brought it up, not me) and hilariously botched anthems.
I could go on and on about how open and friendly Kathleen and Wayne Messmer were, generously chatting with Rhonda, Tom and me for such a long time. I thought to myself: See! None of this would have happened had we all been allowed into the groundbreaking ceremony!
Tom's photo of Rhonda and the Messmers
We finally parted ways as the Messmers went off to eat at Rockit Burger Bar, and Tom and Rhonda split on his motorcycle. Inspired, I unlocked my bike, rode the mile north back home and wrote this song!