The return of baseball has the Cubs feeling like kids again
While sprint and intensity seem to be the buzz words across Major League Baseball with teams kicking off workouts in anticipation of a shortened, 60-game season, Anthony Rizzo took a moment on Friday afternoon to slow everything down.
Nestled in the shade on a hot, July day, the Cubs first baseman settled down for a team meeting in the 200-section on the first base side. In that brief moment, he looked around and took in the beauty of historic Wrigley Field.
“Whatever that section was where we had our meeting, I’m going to apply for season tickets there, ASAP,” Rizzo said. “That view of Wrigley Field, I’ve never seen the view from that angle before, and I was just blown away. You have the home dugout right there, just the whole vantage point of the game, I was just like, ‘Wow.’”
As the Cubs filed into Wrigley Field for their first official workout of the summer, there was a child-like sense amongst the crew.
Ian Happ, like other hitters, took batting practice and spent some time in the outfield catching others’ batting practices. He took time to admire the pristine sod in the outfield — usually showing wear in any other July — and the park’s splendor.
“Usually this time of the season you’d have a little outfield burnout from the concerts,” the Cub outfielder said. “None of that this year, it’s all green and it really is like being a 12-year-old again.”
That youthfulness wasn’t just amongst the young, spry players who had mostly been in self isolation away from team facilities in the last three months. First-year manager David Ross felt those same feelings of excitement as he entered the ballpark for his first official workout at Wrigley Field as the Cubs manager.
“You kinda turn into a 12-year-old thinking about baseball and how much you’ve missed it during this time,” Ross said. “It’s fun to be back. Wrigley looks amazing.”
The communal atmosphere in the neighborhood around the ballpark has given Ross the opportunity to interact with fans on his walk to Wrigley Field. It’s a small sense of normalcy with games likely to be played without fans at the start of the season.
“I get a lot of hellos from fans. I think the people in the community are starting to know what my mask looks like and my bald head,” Ross said with a laugh. “It’s really fun to walk by the stadium, the way the weather’s been and the way that we’ve missed baseball. I think you guys have missed it, I’ve missed it, the people around here have really missed just the atmosphere.
“This is a unique city and organization about how fun it is to come to this place. It’s nice to walk outside of my door and head down the street and head towards the ballpark.”
Normally, the Cubs wouldn’t have practices at Wrigley Field with no meaningful game in sight. Taking batting practices, shagging fly balls and taking grounders at the Friendly Confines has been something unique in an already unique season.
“We don’t get to do that much,” Happ said. “The only time we get to just take BP in practice at Wrigley Field would be in between a playoff series or kinda in between the end of the season and the playoffs.
“So, to be able to do that, to be able to use Wrigley as our practice facility, it’s absolutely gorgeous right now.”
After those early oh and ah moments, the Cubs got back to work. As they ramp things up for an Opening Day roughly three weeks away, they’re appreciative of being back on the field.
“It just felt good to be back here,” Rizzo said. “It feels good to be here and to be able to practice here and be able to get to a sense of normality.”