Wrigley Field may have the air of an Economic Club gala this weekend with all the Who’s Who coming out for the Cubs’ World Series home games.
These executives, sans suits, have for years paid top dollar to sit behind home plate or a skip away from first or third bases.
There’s status in sitting close and rubbing shoulders with the likes of actor Bill Murray, but for most it’s about seeing players and plays up close.
“It’s especially cool when Aroldis Chapman gets up in the bullpen and he starts throwing the weighted black ball. There’s a lot of action. The relief pitchers are laughing and spitting sunflower seeds at one another and anyone who walks by. It’s like seeing 12-year-olds getting ready to play. And they’re all so close, right there in front of us,” Marc Malnati, owner of Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, says of his first-row seats above the Cubs bullpen.
Behind home plate in Section 22, Scott Borre, CEO of Instant Care, enjoys watching pitchers and batters duel.
Seated nearby is Jim Anixter, the founder of A-Z Wire & Cable in Northbrook. He always wears a pink hat and green shirt.
Anixter has four front-row season seats he first bought in 1966. He got the pink hat in 1990 when the Cubs hosted the All-Star Game, and he’s worn it ever since. “I wear it so my wife knows I’m really at the game,” he jokes, referring to Lesley Anixter. They’ve been married 45 years. She’ll be at Saturday’s game.
Steve Zucker, the retired Chicago sports agent, remembers sitting in the front row with his dad. Now he prefers row 9 behind home plate. “You can tell if they’re throwing balls or strikes,” says Zucker, who sits with good friend Rick Fizdale, a former CEO of Leo Burnett. “We’re usually sitting next to baseball scouts with their radar guns,” says Zucker.
Mark IV Realty Group founder John Marks has four season tickets behind home plate. Mesirow Financial CEO and Wrapports board member Richard Price sits nearby.
Heading toward first base, you might run into Pat Ryan Jr. and then Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, who sits next to the visiting team’s bench. Nearby is venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, Cubs investor Andrew Berlin and Jam Theatricals partners Arny Granat or Steve Traxler (like many, they share season tickets).
Laurie Wilson, a Michigan farm owner, has four seats in the bullpen box. “Some of those amazing catches by Anthony Rizzo have happened right in front of us,” she says.
LaSalle Network CEO Tom Gimbel and WorkCompEDI back-office management firm CEO Brendan Friar sit farther down the first baseline. “My boys always like to ask the other team’s pitcher for a ball,” Friar says of sons ages 11 and 9. “They’ve amassed quite a collection.”
Another perk: Friar’s favorite beer vendor, Lloyd Rutzky, takes care of that section.
Along the third-base side, you may see Dodgers owner Mark Walter and his wife, Kimbra.
Attorney Jay Rock has two sets of season tickets. One is in section 22 behind home plate that he inherited from his late father. The other, which he shares with friends, is in section 38 along first base. Both have their pluses: “a great vantage point” behind home and gracious opposing pitchers who share balls with his daughters.
For Doug and Kate O’Brien, the tickets in section 110 on the third-base side are sentimental. Kate, an attorney, purchased them before they married. Doug, the deputy director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, proposed marriage in front of Wrigley Field’s marquee. And the couple posed for wedding photos on the field — in December. “They’re a big part of our family,” he says of the tickets.
A level up at Wrigley
Flip Corboy, a partner at Corboy & Demetrio law firm, sits in section 114 up from the Cubs dugout. “I’m high enough to see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand and into the catcher’s glove,” he says. “Every year I get a phone call from the Cubs asking if I want to upgrade. I always say ‘Check your records. I think I have the best seat in Wrigley Field.'”
Billy Jacobs, owner of Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, sits behind the visitors bullpen often with his brothers or hot dog purveyor Doug Sohn.
And Gerry and Ana Winters have four seats in section 202. “We used to sit in section 204 but I wanted to move out from the overhang and into the sunshine,” says Gerry, a human resources consultant. An added perk: the men’s washrooms are right below.
A suite is shared by some of Chicago’s most notable business and civic leaders: Wrapports Chairman John Canning Jr., Michael Ferro, Matt Maloney and Mark Tebbe.
Along with his field seats, J.B. Pritzker has a suite. And so does Victor Ciardelli. He’s the CEO of Guaranteed Rate, which just bought naming rights to the stadium where the White Sox play.
A boost for donations
During last weekend’s Vision Ball, honoree Richard Price said he’d broadcast the Cubs game if he could get a $10,000 matching donation. He got two! The $30,000 benefited the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and guests got to watch the Cubs win the National League Championship Series on big-screen TVs.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.