Baseball is fun again on the North Side of Chicago, and yesterday afternoon the atmosphere at Wrigley Field was a perfect example. The weather was pristine, and the left field bleachers are starting to take shape.
Oh, and there was some kid who got called up from the minor leagues to make his MLB debut.
In my 24 years of existence, I have never seen a buzz in either of Chicago’s baseball stadiums as palpable as yesterday. The elder gentleman sitting next to me in Section 420 agreed, and he’s been around the block a bit.
He told me that Kris Bryant’s much talked about debut rivaled the anticipation and energy of the 2003 NLCS. He also mentioned that Alex Gonzalez and Steve Bartman co-own a timeshare together in Boca Raton trying to stay invisible together (that’s not true, but I wish it was).
The Cubs fell to the Padres 5-4, but the fans didn’t seem to care in what’s beginning to become known as “Kristmas.” Because as only Cubs fans can do (including myself), they were too busy drunkenly cheering on the second coming of Jesus Kris-t.
Unfortunately, Bryant’s debut didn’t turn out quite how I envisioned but that’s okay – he’s young and was clearly nervous. Bryant is prone to strikeouts, but yesterday there was a noticeable, adrenaline-fueled giddy-up in his swing.
The first appearance of Kris Bryant at Clark and Addison certainly wasn’t of out a movie, but that didn’t change the atmosphere at Wrigley Field. He struggled mightily. But the Wrigley crowd always had his back.
For his first at-bat, the entire crowd of 40,000 was on its feet – and about 80% of them had their cell phones out. It was a short trip to the plate – Bryant struck out on three pitches – but the Wrigley faithful stood and applauded his effort anyway.
And I think that’s the difference we see with this year’s Cubs. Chicago sports fans, in general, are a responsive bunch – they tend to rise and fall with the success of the team. Obviously, that’s especially true for the long-suffering Chicago Cubs.
For the first time in years, this team is having fun and the fans filling the ballpark are too. I mean, just take Jonathan Herrera’s baserunning yesterday. He was a good 45 feet up the baseline toying with James Shields’ head, and when Herrera scored moments later on a wild pitch – Wrigley went nuts.
When is the last time you could even imagine a Cubs team, player, manager, whoever, playing that brand of baseball? Never. The fans’ audible reaction only confirmed that.
Friday’s atmosphere at Wrigley Field was a response to what these new-look Cubs are producing on the field. More importantly, it was a response to how they’re doing it.
Kris Bryant’s mere presence only pushed the mood to a level I haven’t quite seen before.
In a lot of ways, 2015 represents a new era in Cubs baseball. And yesterday, Cubs fans showed that they love it.
(Featured Image courtesy of Niklas Hellerstedt)