LONDON — For those of you in the USA, this would have been a baseball workout with breakfast, as the Chicago Cubs’ workout and BP session at London Stadium in advance of the two-game series against the Cardinals began at 1 p.m. BST (British Summer Time), which is 7 a.m. back in good ol’ Chicago. That’s why you’re reading this at lunchtime while I’m getting ready to go to dinner.
The team looked hale and ready to play as they posed for photos in front of the third-base dugout, which is the one they’ll occupy for the London Series:
Incidentally, you’ll note the Cubs wearing their home white pinstripes. I’ve been told that they will wear those for Saturday’s game, then the Cardinals will wear their home whites on Sunday.
Entry into the stadium couldn’t have been easier. They use security devices identical to the ones found in the Wrigley Field bleachers and the staff was friendly and efficient. Here’s the entry point (one of several that are similar):
The merchandise “superstore” is located outside the stadium (but past the entry point), and yes it is enormous. There’s plenty of merch for the London Series, lots of Cubs and Cardinals jerseys, caps, T-shirts, etc. and also a section where they have things from the other 28 MLB teams, trying to promote the game. I saw people wearing Brewers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees and Giants garb at the workout session. Many of those are locals who have picked up baseball fandom here in the UK.
Those of us lucky enough to get tickets to the workout day avoided what are likely to be VERY long lines at this store Saturday and Sunday. (And yes, I spent way too much money on London Series stuff. This sort of thing only happens once, right?)
Here’s what the store looked like, outside and inside:
Here’s an overview of the stadium from the third-base side:
Then the Cubs went through about 90 minutes of various workouts and batting practice, basically what you’d find at a Wrigley Field home game. Here are a few short videos I shot (and I’m using the Twitter versions because I’m pretty sure YouTube would reject them because of copyrighted music in the background):
Here are some photos of other goings-on during the workout:
- Cubs begin stretching on workout day Al Yellon
- Cubs team meeting before workout Al Yellon
- David Ross being interviewed on MLB Network Al Yellon
- Infield drills Al Yellon
- Distance marker in right field Al Yellon
- Distance marker in center field Al Yellon
- Distance marker in left-center field Al Yellon
- Overview of the field during workout Al Yellon
- Dansby Swanson being interviewed on MLB Network Al Yellon
- Dansby Swanson, popular guy Al Yellon
One thing I did want to call your attention to is the distance markers in the outfield, shown in the gallery above. MLB definitely re-configured the field from the 2019 Yankees/Red Sox London Series, where one of the games was 17-13 and 10 home runs total were hit. The outfield walls are a bit farther away and there’s less foul territory. One photo I couldn’t get was the LF corner distance marker — that one said 301 feet. Maybe Nick Madrigal can yank a baseball over that wall!
And in case you were wondering, the field is artificial turf.
This was a fine way to spend an afternoon in London, relaxing and watching this BP session. I left before the Cardinals took the field; they were also supposed to have a 90-minute session. I didn’t see many Cardinals fans around, nor have I seen many in and around London in general — but have seen MANY Cubs fans in various parts of the city that aren’t necessarily connected to the London Series. So I’d expect the crowds for the two games to be very Cubs-centric.
I’d estimate maybe 5,000 or so were at the workout day; the games over the weekend aren’t completely sold out, but they’ll be pretty close to capacity, and no matter whether fans traveled from the USA, are expatriate Americans living in Europe, or British or European nationals who have taken to baseball, there’s no doubt the fans over the weekend will be lively and enthusiastic.