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Cubs fans at home opener: ‘This is the year!’

Throngs of Cubs fans outside the ballpark on Opening Day 2016. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The ballpark’s newly painted ironwork gleamed in the sunlight. The smell of deep-fried goodness mixed with the odor of Chicago Police horse poop. And hordes of fans in Cubbie Blue streamed past the marquee that read: “WELCOME TO OPENING NIGHT 2016.”

And almost without exception, every fan in Cubdom on Monday night declared: “This is the year!”

And even if it isn’t, Rose Loiacono is sure it’s her year. The 55-year-old nurse from River Forest just last week had a mastectomy.

She came to the ballpark with two fluid drainage pouches dangling from her waist.

“This was not going to stop me from coming. This is my year,” said Loiacono, a first-year season-ticket holder. “However well the Cubs do, I will be over the moon.”

She said she had been on the waiting list for season tickets for 15 years.

Cubs fans Ben Briney and Jeremy Lawrence at Wrigley Field on Monday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Cubs fans Ben Briney and Jeremy Lawrence at Wrigley Field on Monday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

As Loiacono stood outside the ballpark, the tremolo notes of the ballpark organ drifted out onto the sidewalk and beyond.

“Opening night program and scorecard! They’re $3 here!” barked the game-day hawkers.

On the Addison side of the ballpark, Connie Bobrowski, 42, and her older sister, Debbie Pacini, were getting settled in at their seventh Wrigleyville bar of the day. And both were still standing.

“This is the way to do Opening Day,” said Bobrowski, without a hint of a slur.

“We’re still here and we know where we’re sitting,” her sister added.

Cubs fans David and Elizabeth Leach, who are on their honeymoon, at Wrigley Field on Monday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Cubs fans David and Elizabeth Leach, who are on their honeymoon, at Wrigley Field on Monday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

An army of security personnel in green jackets greeted fans at the newly installed metal detectors. Many fans took the Cubs’ advice and arrived early. But people mostly moved quickly through the detectors — and without complaint.

“Step right up! No line! No wait!” the security folks repeated at regular intervals.

“I’m a Bears season-ticket holder and I love the security,” said Cubs fan Tammy Magrini, 53, of Woodridge. “I want to feel safe when I go into a game.”

As many geared up for a season full of promise, Rick Gordon, 70, of Highland Park, was feeling a bit sentimental.

Cubs fan Rick Gordon outside Wrigley Field at Monday's home opener. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Cubs fan Rick Gordon outside Wrigley Field on Monday’s home opener. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

“My brother has passed away, my father has passed away,” Gordon said. “I’ve gotta go to the cemetery and tell them some good news in the fall.”

Gordon recalled a game at Wrigley Field back in 1962, when it poured rain.

“There were 512 people, and I still couldn’t get a foul ball,” he said.

It seems hard to imagine so sad a turnout this year.

“This is positively the year,” Gordon declared. “The Cubs are deep. When one guy goes down, there’s another guy who is equal to the task. Except, I’m going to miss Kyle Schwarber’s 500-foot home runs.”