Baseball season is almost here #Cubs #WrigleyField

image

Sometimes I can’t help myself. My daughter goes to school not far from Wrigley Field, and she skates at the ice rink that’s just a mile or so from the ballpark. Sometimes after she’s dropped off, I go a few blocks out of my way, and soon enough I find myself at Clark and Addison streets.

It’s been a terrible winter this year, and the sight of preparations for the baseball season made me feel great. When baseball begins, winter dies. And Opening day will be here very soon.

Change, nothing stays the same

As I indicated in a post from yesterday, I was able to get to Wrigley Field today and confirm that the ivy has indeed turned red. We have achieved the state of RIO (Red Ivy in October), just in time for the end of the World Series. I wish I had a picture, but as long as my phone is what it is I don’t have picture taking capacities. But I have seen it with my own eyes. And there’s new sod being put down in Wrigley, as well.

If you ever want to know just how much life changes, go back to a place you haven’t lived in for awhile and look around. I did that over the summer when I went to a high school reunion for the first time, and I did it just now as I was driving back from Wrigley Field. Both were eye-openers, but I’ll focus on this evening’s experience in this post.

I once lived about a mile north of Wrigley Field, next to Graceland cemetary in an area that went by many names. Some called it Uptown, and some called it Buena Park, but nobody ever considered it a part of Wrigleyville. Which was fine, because the streets in that area are some of the best, unrestricted, free street parking available on game day. You can pay $30 to put your car in somebody’s driveway during the game, or you can park on the street, and then put the money in your pocket or give it to a beer vendor instead. You just need to know where you’re going, is all.

The changes at Wrigley Field itself are palpable, and would be going on whether or not Theo Epstein was running the team. But the fact that he is running it now makes the changes seem more palpable. The Ron Santo statue is relatively new, and I hadn’t seen it up close like that before. The sod will be new, the Captain Morgan club isn’t brand new but I’m still not used to it yet, the Harry Caray statue is still in a relatively new location by the bleachers entrance, and the police surveillance camera at Sheffield and Addison is new (watch out for that one).

But as I was heading north, away from the park, other changes also caught my eye. A gas station on Irving and Sheridan, that seemed like it had been there forever, is gone now. A new Target has risen up where the long-empty Wilson Yards used to be. A Popeye’s chicken and some other businesses on a seedy stretch of Broadway are shut down. And that sadly includes a large Border’s bookstore near Lawrence and Broadway. I say this not to bore anyone who may or may not be familiar with the area, but to point out that nothing lasts forever, and most things don’t last as long as we would like them to.

Theo Epstein is being brought in to win championships on the field (I’m using the plural deliberately, by the way), but also will be asked about how to remake an old ballpark without making it seem too new, as was done with Fenway Park. It can be done, and now it will be done. And there will hopefully many good things to come from it.

Two very different days in Chicago

Yesterday was another one of a string of glorious days we’ve had in Chicago. Even though the calendar reads October, the sunshine and the warm weather made it feel like June. But without any baseball, of course. A baseball-free October seems to be the default position for my team and that other one that plays across town.

But yesterday was different because word of the Theo Epstein signing came out. It felt like a momentous thing, like the day the Bulls traded for Dennis Rodman all those many years ago. Epstein is a front office suit, and not a player, so the comparison isn’t quite the same. But there was a palpable sense that good things were going to happen, and sure enough, they did. It felt just like that yesterday, but we’ll have to wait and see what comes of it.

My younger daughter goes to school fairly close to Wrigley Field, and I had a few minutes to kill before picking her up yesterday, so I drove past the ballpark. There were TV cameras set up along Clark Street, doubtlessly there to report on the Epstein signing. I saw the new Ron Santo statue, which I had hadn’t seen in the daylight before. His statue and Billy Williams’ form a sort of entryway near the gate at Addison and Sheffield. I’ll get used to it, I suppose.

I wasn’t able to put my car anywhere for fear of a parking ticket, but I wanted to take a peek through the knothole in the outfield fence. It looked like the ivy wasn’t turning colors yet, which was just as well, because I’m sure that would only bring back memories of 2003. My next post will demonstrate how I’m still working my way through that one.

I circled the park a couple of times, and then went back to pick up my daughter at her school. I liked the sunshine and the warmth, and told myself that postseason baseball is something I could adjust to, if only the opportunity would come around on a regular basis. But that’s Theo’s concern now.

As sunny as yesterday was, today was just as rainy. It felt as if the glow of the big signing had worn off already, and it was now time to get to work with building the team up. The reality is a bit different, though, since it’s not an official deal yet. But the Rubicon has now been crossed, and Theo Epstein is calling the shots for the Cubs.

I’m sure there will be many updates on this as the winter progresses. Stay tuned.