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A walk around Wrigley Field on the eve of 2021 baseball

After more than a year, fans will return to the Friendly Confines

The bleacher gate at sunset March 29
Sara Sanchez

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked over to Wrigley Field in the last year. Part of it was to get outside and get steps during the long night of the pandemic, but let’s be honest I could get those steps anywhere. The lakefront is nearby, wandering through Graceland and ruminating on the lives of those buried there is always an option, Chicago is a remarkably walkable city and there are a lot of options to get those 10,000+ steps each day. Yet the place I ventured more than anywhere else was the Friendly Confines.

I walked by the old park on what should have been Opening Day last year, when it turned into a local food pantry last spring, as the new organist practiced last May, during the fanless games in the shortened 2020 season, through the bitter Chicago winter and again, now as spring tries to take hold in the city as baseball will finally return to the 107 year old ballpark on the Northside of Chicago.

Wrigley Field has a character and quality that only comes to buildings and spaces with age. New parks can be designed to recall the structures of their classic counterparts, but they do not have the same sense of history. I have frequently contemplated the fact that only two MLB ballparks remain that saw both the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Between Sunday and today there has been a flurry of activity at the old ballpark as the Cubs get ready to welcome fans back into Wrigley Field, so I wanted to share some images from around the park that stood out to me on my wanderings.

Old flags on Addison on March 28
Sara Sanchez

The offseason flags were hanging by a thread on Sunday and some of those threads had snapped. I don’t want to be overly superstitious or anything but a busted up W flag doesn’t exactly seem like a good omen to me.

Oy Vey replaces the Eamus Catuli sign
Sara Sanchez

For a few months now the Eamus Catuli sign that tracks the years since the Cubs won the division, the pennant or the World Series has been a bit cheeky. There were asterisks up last year during the season and sometime in the winter they switched it to just read “Oy Vey.” So say we all.

Golden Hour at Gallagher Way
Sara Sanchez

But while we all wonder when this pandemic will actually end, around the corner from the “Oy Vey” sign the first flags were up at Wrigley Field as the sun began to set. If you zoom in you’ll notice these aren’t the team flags that have traditionally circled the outside of the park, they are instead flags celebrating Cubs players and events like the ones traditionally inside the park. You can get a better of view of that from Sunday’s walk on this shot of the Marquee:

New flags above the Marquee
Sara Sanchez

By Monday things were really hopping at the old ballpark with this year’s player flags up lining Clark and Addison. One of my favorite things to do is to see which players are paired up together, although I admit I felt a stab of nostalgia as I realized this is likely the final year we’ll see Bryzzo outside the ballpark.

Bryzzo flag pairing on Clark by the Marquee
Sara Sanchez

I like to think whoever did these pairings knew how much joy I would get from seeing Jake Arrieta paired up with Willson Contreras. It really felt like a match that was put together just for me.

My favorite battery
Sara Sanchez

In all seriousness there were some very cool and informative things happening around the ballpark. The 2020 ticket schedules that were never used were replaced by 2021 information at every set of ticket windows

Ticket windows replaced
Sara Sanchez

Y’all have no idea the amount of restraint it required not to ask for one of the 2020 schedules.

2021 schedules - note the color coding
Sara Sanchez

The color coding on the seat map aligns with gate information now that matches up with tickets. You’ll recall from the Wrigley Community Meeting piece I wrote last week that fans will be segmented into zones inside the park as part of COVID-19 protocols this season. Each gate has that information plainly marked when you walk up.

Gallagher Way is a GREEN entrance
Sara Sanchez
The left field gate is a YELLOW entrance
Sara Sanchez

It has been wonderful to see them making all these changes this week to welcome fans back to the ballpark. I can’t even describe the joy I’ve felt seeing masked individuals rolling supplies back and forth on the concourse as I walk by. It feels surreal that we are less than a week away from fans finally returning to Wrigley Field, but we are. Harry Caray is still waiting patiently by the Bleacher Gate to welcome you to the best ballpark on Earth.

Harry Caray at sunset
Sara Sanchez