Fans at and around Wrigley Field? For Cubs — and everyone — it’ll be a beautiful thing

A buzz in the Wrigleyville air. Traffic on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Real, live human beings in the ballpark stands. Is it Opening Day yet?

SHARE Fans at and around Wrigley Field? For Cubs — and everyone — it’ll be a beautiful thing
That empty feeling at Wrigley Field is getting ready to change.

That empty feeling at Wrigley Field is getting ready to change.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Pirates won’t know what hit them.

When the Cubs’ Opening Day opponents roll into Wrigleyville on April 1, there will be a buzz in the air, traffic on the sidewalks and in the crosswalks and — oh, baby, the best part — real, live human beings in the ballpark stands.

Note: It won’t be because the team from Pittsburgh is in town.

Wrigley Field is kind of back.

Baseball on the North Side as we know it is, well, kind of back.

“I don’t know if there’s anything like it in professional sports,” manager David Ross said.

A bit of an overstatement? We could quibble one way or the other about that. But there aren’t many major-league atmospheres like the one in and around Wrigley. There aren’t many teams that vibe off their fans the way the Cubs do. Just ask the Pirates and a couple of dozen other teams who only wish they had it as good.

Opening Day could find 8,274 fans, give or take, in attendance for the opener after Monday’s declaration by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that the Cubs and Sox can plan to start their seasons at 20% capacity.

There will be pod-style seating for physical distancing, masks required, mobile-only tickets, touchless entry and cashless concessions. For those on hand, though, it’ll be every bit the real thing. At least we’re figuring it will be. How could we know for sure? We’ve never been through this before.

For those watching and listening from home, broadcasts should look and sound quite a bit more familiar than they did in 2020. And for those playing the game?

“It’s a start,” right fielder Jason Heyward said on The Score. “It’s definitely better than Opening Day with what we had last year. . . . Hopefully that number increases gradually throughout the year.”

Did the Cubs miss their fans last season? Of course they did. Did being able to hear the echoes of sunflower-seed shells banging off dugout railings minimize home-field advantage and hurt the Cubs? Not measurably; they were 19-14 at home, similar to their 15-12 mark on the road. But it certainly wasn’t the same, especially during the wild-card series against the Marlins.

Piped-in crowd music might not be jarring at every ballpark — heck, they need to do it some places under normal circumstances — but at Wrigley it fell flat and at times was truly eerie.

It’ll be so much better in April.

“I’m delighted,” radio play-by-play man Pat Hughes said. “I think it’s great news.”

Hughes made do with what he had to work with last season — his 25th calling Cubs games — but some home days were more challenging than others.

“I missed the fans in general,” he said, “but I missed the fans dearly against two opponents, and you can probably guess which two they were.”

The Cardinals and Sox. Of course.

It should be a little more fun and exciting for all involved now.

“Even the umpires,” Hughes cracked.

Season-ticket holders will receive priority access to tickets, but there will be opportunities for fans to register for random drawings for rights to purchase seats at regular-season games. The cutoff for the first drawing is March 19.

According to Ross, the atmosphere without fans last season created an “empty feeling.”

“We’ve got this museum there that nobody could get into and appreciate except the players,” he said. “So it’s exciting to get back to some sense of normal and having some fans there, and just cheers. Getting a little bit of that atmosphere back around the area will be great for everybody.”

The Latest
The venue will be closed through July 10 to “give the community the space and quiet to reflect and heal.”
Robert Crimo III showed little emotion as a prosecutor read the names of the dead and asked that he held without bond. The judge agreed.
Agency’s perverse combination regulatory strategies would undermine public health in the name of promoting it.
Biden pledged that he is working to win Brittney Griner’s release from Russia as soon as possible, the White House said Wednesday.
Pat Fitzgerald continues to keep some of Illinois’ best prep football players close to home.