One of the "little things" I enjoy about Wrigley Field is the view of Cubs pitchers warming up in the left-field bullpen, which isn't far from my left-field corner seat in the bleachers.
The team had planned on moving the bullpens under the bleachers in 2016 as part of the Wrigley renovation project, but that's now being delayed until 2017, and here's why:
"The home and visiting bullpens will remain in place for next season," the team said in a statement. "Our plan is to complete the permanent below-grade batting tunnels before moving bullpens." Underground batting cages will be built next to the new Cubs clubhouse, which is under construction and slated to be ready for opening day of 2016. But because visiting teams won't have their underground cages ready for use by then, both teams will continue to use the small, outdated cages underneath the left- and right-field bleachers next season, meaning there will be no room for the new bullpens.
So, until both teams have underground batting cages available, the bullpens will remain down the foul lines, meaning fans will still be able to see warmups and rituals like the one in the photo at the top of this article, where Cubs relief pitchers exchange high- and low-fives on their way to being seated before games.
The Cubs plan to install new premium seating in the bullpen locations. That's obviously the primary reason for the move, but in addition, this will provide more safety for outfielders, who won't have to worry about tripping over a bullpen mound running after baseballs.
The eventual move will also end this dangerous game:
Thanks to Cubs bullpen catcher Chad Noble, the relievers have participated in a unique contest to see who is the boldest when it comes to absorbing ground balls or even line drives headed toward the left-field bullpen area. Here's how the contest is played: During the game, as the pitchers are sitting in the bullpen, either on the bench along the wall or on folding chairs in front of the bullpen mound, they face the batter. If a foul ball comes their way, the object is to remain as still as possible, regardless of how close the ball comes to them, or even if it hits them.
Here's hoping no Cubs pitcher -- or anyone else -- gets injured doing this.
Wrigley Field is one of three major-league parks that still have on-field bullpens. After the Wrigley pens move, AT&T Park in San Francisco and O.co Coliseum in Oakland will be the final two with this old-fashioned feature.