I took the Wrigley Field Tour today which is a walking tour of Wrigley Field. I’ve been to Wrigley many times over the years but had a great time seeing some of the behind the scenes areas that are normally closed off to fans. I’d recommend spending the $25 and checking this out if you’re a Cub fan or a baseball fan in general.
The tour started with a short video in the new Sheffield Grill which I missed most of since I showed up a few minutes late. The 25 or so people left the restaurant and walked up some stairs ending up in the bleachers overlooking a very empty Wrigley Field. It is definitely a different experience seeing the field on a non game day. Throughout the tour I could see anywhere from 10-20 people doing various things on the field preparing for the next game (Monday night). Drying the grass with big blowers, taking the tarp on and off the field and using a push mower on the grass (I expected at least a riding lawnmower). We sat in the bleachers for 15 minutes while the tour guide introduced himself, explained the history of the field itself and dropped some interesting facts. Did you know a flag flies at Wrigley for Hack Wilson, a Cub that holds the record for most R.B.I. in a season (191)? And the first team to play there was the Chicago Federals who played there for only a couple years before their league went bankrupt? After going through the history and answering a couple questions we proceeded back down the steps toward the visitor’s clubhouse.
The visitor’s clubhouse is up a flight of stairs off the main concourse and is as small as you’d imagine for a stadium built in the early 1900s. Aside from a couple LCD TVs and a laptop you’d think they hadn’t changed anything since it was built. The visitor’s clubhouse attendant (who gave our tour) explained that he organizes the lockers by player numbers and generally gives extra empty lockers to the opposing team’s best players. There was one folding table in center for players to play cards and read the paper around and the coaches use it for pre-game planning as well. I can understand why Ozzie Guillen complains when the Sox come north for a game. From the visitor’s clubhouse we left out a back entrance and headed up towards the press box.
The press area was one of the more interesting parts of Wrigley to me. Probably because I listen to a lot of sports radio and read a lot of the sports writers that cover the Cubs. It is located behind home plate above the upper deck, holds about 50 people and is one of the smallest press boxes in Major League Baseball. Directly to the left of the press box was the booth for the Cubs TV announcers where greats like Harry Caray, Jack Brickhouse and Steve Stone called baseball games. This is also where a lot of semi-famous people attempt to sing the 7th inning stretch. Aside from being right down on the field, this seems like one of the best views of the field and the surrounding neighborhood. Next the tour guide took us to the suites.
The suites at Wrigley are in the area right below the upper deck area, accessed by a catwalk and are less impressive than I expected. There is a small indoor area with a tall table for a few people and a big screen TV. You can go out the door where there are about 15 seats and a good view of the field. The suites stretch across this level of Wrigley and are side by side with no separating walls. When Bill Clinton came to watch a game they put bullet proof glass around his suite but usually they are fully open. The smallest suites start at $2500 per game so it is feasible to round up 14 other friends and go watch a game. The final stops on the tour were the Cubs clubhouse, dugout and the field itself.
We entered the Cubs clubhouse from another door off the main concourse. It was roped off since the players leave personal possessions in the lockers and was much bigger than the opposing team’s locker room. Each player’s home jersey hung from their locker and some of the veterans had empty extra lockers (including our newest 90 million dollar setup man). The team also has a player’s lounge next to the locker room complete with a few more TVs, a Rock Band video game and tables, chairs and couches for relaxing. After walking past a couple large signs explaining the M.L.B. drug policy and player dress code, we walked down the tunnel headed towards the dugout. Something I never knew is the players don’t have to go very far if they need to use the restroom during a game. There is a urinal (and sink) right before you go up the stairs into the dugout. The dugout was cool to see but wasn’t anything more than you’d expect. A long, padded bench running across it and steps leading onto the field. The benches are raised up, clearly built for tall people, so a short person’s legs wouldn’t touch the foot bar that runs below the benches. On the field everything was roped off except the dirt area that runs from the Cubs clubhouse around the backstop and over to the visitor’s clubhouse. It goes without saying but fans that can afford seats right on field-level get an amazing view of the field and the game.
The tour of Wrigley Field ended there after about 1 hour and 3o minutes but it was well worth the time, money and the short bus ride to Wrigleyville. Check it out sometime if it sounds interesting to you.