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  #1  
Old Jan 28th 2009, 8:51 am
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ryno4ever ryno4ever is offline
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Talking Opening Day at Wrigley

Sitting on the crowded train, packed with what seems like long lost family members all decked out in red, white, and blue the excitement builds each time the train stops, opens its little doors and more and more people cram into the what seems like a little sardines box. I make sure I sit next to the window that I can see her when she comes into sight. Patiently, quietly, I sit knowing that within a few minutes, my long lost heaven will be found again. My sadness will disappear. My life for the next seven months will change.

We round the curve, slowly, as I look down and try to catch glimpses of the streets between the tall buildings that block much of the scenery. Many balconies of the apartments we pass already have the flags and signs out and ready to welcome the change with open arms. Then, after one last stop, we start to crawl into our destination and there she is. The lights. I can see the lights. My stomach gets butterflies as I reach for my stuff. Purse? Check. Camera? Check. Wallet? Check. Tickets? Check. I have everything I need.

"Next stop. Addison. Doors open on the left at Addison"...the recorded voice comes over the barely audible speakers on the train. Many on the train already know and have piled in front of the doors trying to exit the train as fast as they can. Not because they are fearful they won't make it off, but because on the other side of those doors is the happiest place on earth. Everyone on the train has been waiting for six long, cold, painful months to get a piece of it.

The doors open and as I step out onto the platform, I can't help but just get stopped in my tracks. How I want so badly right at that moment to capture everything so sensual into a bottle. The smells.... it's early morning, yet still the sweet smell of grilled onions and meat grilling on the patios and decks of surrounding apaprtments fill my nose in the crisp early April air. The sounds... "Peanuts...get your peanuts"... "Tickets? Get your tickets".... and just the hustle and bustle of the crowd below us as well as the cars honking their horns trying to make it through the thousands of people beginning to flood the sidewalks and streets that circle her. And the sea of red, white a blue as they make their way toward her. The cold April Chicago wind slaps against my face, but I hardly notice that because the warm feeling all over because of the pent up excitement takes over.



I impatiently try to go with the crowd and make my way to the streets below. It's organized chaos. Everyone has the same butterflies and excitement that has overcome me. Many already cheering "Let's Go Cubbies"... as we make our way down the stairwell to the gates of heaven! We push past the security guards. We brush past the peanut vendors. We made out onto Addison! The guy at the bar right next to the el station stands in his spot that I see him every game I'm at with a bundle of tickets wrapped tightly in his hands... "Tickets? Get your tickets"....the thought always crosses my mind to see what he has to offer.... does he have better seats? Will he swap up? No, I have my tickets. I just want to be there, doesn't matter where I sit! I wait at the corner for the "walk" sign to flash at me. As the sign changes, the crossing guard steps in front of cars and busses try to muddle through the mobs of people filling the streets and sidewalks that encircle her. I look to my left. There's the scoreboard, and that's when I KNOW I'm home. The wind is blowing in. Could be a low scoring game. Will be cold. Will the wind shift? All thoughts that cross my mind in that split second that I see it towering over my heaven.


I stop for my yearly snapshot of Harry. I have dozens of these, and he hasn't aged a bit after all of these years! But it's my tradition.


It's time for my lap around Wrigley. The gates haven't opened yet, plenty of time to take it all in. You can hear the music blaring from inside the field where the players are taking batting practice. As you walk along the outfield walls, people are standing in the street with their Cubs stocking caps on their heads and their old tattered ball gloves on their hands in hopes of shagging a batting practice home run! "Crack...." Oh, such a sweet sound... the crack of the bat. It gives me goosebumples!



......
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Old Jan 28th 2009, 9:15 am
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I make my way on the narrow sidewalk to the other side of the park. I drop a couple of dollars in the bucket of the man who sits in the wheelchair at every game with a sign that simply says "Please help. Go Cubs". He's there. Rain, shine, heat, cold. Many people just brush past him, but I admire his dedication. His name is Wade Vergon. He's been there for 15 years. (His story is on pages 343-344 of Cub Nation, the book by Gene Wojcjechowski). Ever since I read this book, I always make sure I have a few dollars set aside with easy accessiblity so I can give him some help at every game I go to.

Up ahead is another big mob of people. I make my way to the corner walk under the famed marquee. People are already lined up waiting for the gates to open. "Let's go Cubbies..... Let's go Cubbies" is the chant. TV crews interviewing Cub fans "Is this the year?" "Why do you brave this cold?" (obviously the reporter isn't a fan....). I step back almost into the street to get the snapshot of the giant red sign that marks the occasion:


Many other people are doing the same. Some try to get into the street so they could get their family and friends in the picture, but space is very limited.

I cross the street to go catch a bit of the live broadcast that WGN is doing from their trailer by McDonalds. Kathy, Judy, Steve Bertrand, Steve Cochran, and John Williams are all usually in attendance up there. Sometimes you get a chance to see some Cubs people there... one year, I was able to meet and get a picture with John McDonough after he went up on the platform and gave an interview on air.



It's getting closer to the time the gates open... have to make it all the way around the field. So much to see. So much to take in. So much to absorb.

I walk around (now having to add a visit to Mr. Cub's statue, which was unveiled last year on Opening Day)... I stop at McDonalds to get a coffee... have to get warm and the line from starbucks was flooding into the streets, and McDonald's there is always prepared to get their patrons in and out as quickly as possible!
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Old Jan 28th 2009, 9:35 am
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I make my way through the alley to the fence that encloses the players vehicles. It's always fun to try to figure out who drives what. The cars themselves are enough to make you drool! BMW's, Mercedes, Hummers, you name it! Z's is always pretty easy to figure out as he usually has personalized plates on a big black Hummer. Soriano's Hummer was an electric blue color and has his initials silver plated on the driver side door.


Parked side by side, Soriano's ride makes Z's look like a Mini-Van!


The siren wails from the firehouse across the street as the firetruck tries to make it's way through the swarms of people who seem to be deaf to the siren. I turn the corner and walk up the sidewalk as the line for the bleachers begins to snake all the way down the sidewalk. Some are sitting on the pavement, wrapped in blankets. Some are jumping up and down in their place in line trying to keep warm, but you don't hear anyone complaining. Busses are letting off hundreds of more fans as the smell of diesel consumes my nose. I look up at the scoreboard again.... the wind is still blowing in... the music is still blaring from inside the park. It's almost time...

I finish my lap of Wrigley as I make my way back toward Harry. This is where I buy my pencil, scorecard, program, and my Media Guide for the new year. My Cubbie Baseball bible! I get my ticket out, get in line for the bag check and wait....

Finally, after 6 long months, a roar comes over the crowd as the gates open. "Ching, Ching, Ching, Ching" as the ticket people scan 40,000 tickets one by one. I make my way through the concourse. No stopping now. I'll come back for my hot dogs, nachos, and other goodies. I make my way to my section....
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Old Jan 28th 2009, 9:40 am
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.... I find my section. I take a deep breath as this next part NEVER gets old.

I slowly walk up the stairs.....


...and as I reach the top, I close my eyes for just a moment....


...and then take it all in. My heaven...


The 6 month wait is over. All is good in the world again. I feel like I'm in heaven...

75 days and the wait will be over again!
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Old Jan 28th 2009, 3:18 pm
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Yes, Heather, I'm starting to get some itch for baseball, too.
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