Thus far on The Great Baseball Ride, we’ve completed the first leg our trip which included games with the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins. We also visited the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum and had an ill-fated attempt at a game with the Durham Bulls (though we did get to see the stadium). We then went on to the second leg of our trip which we called – The Route 66 Baseball Ride. The goal of this leg is to see all the wonderful things along the Mother Road, including the great baseball. The route begins in Chicago, and there we saw our first game of the second leg.
This was game day and after we got situated in our motel, we headed over to the Wrigley area to take in the Cubs experience. We boarded the Redline of the L after about a three block walk, and, after a short ride, it drops us off very close to the stadium.
I’ve been to Wrigley a couple of times, and I remember some of the traditions that my friends from the area imparted to me, although I was a bit fuzzy on the details. I remembered that Wrigleyville was a pre and post-game spot for entertainment, specifically Harry Caray’s and the Cubby Bear. The Wrigley area has undergone about $800 million in renovations since I had been there last, and one of the changes has been Harry Caray’s. Evidently, it is no more; bummer. So, we hit up the Cubby Bear.
I’ve been to the Cubby Bear, but not with a kid. The bouncers at the front of the bar kindly told me that if there are under 21 year olds with that we should take the side entrance and walk up the stairs to the upper level. We did so, and once there we noticed a very different vibe than what I remember. It was quiet, with only a handful of people up there; must have been the family section. No worries, we aren’t looking for a party, but just to have a nice time as a family.
The other thing I remember about the Cub’s experience is that you had to have Old Style beer. So, as we order our appetizers at the Cubby Bear, I make sure to get an Old Style.
We got tickets at the gate, which were upper deck left field, towards the corner, they weren’t so badly priced. This is surprising since the Cubs draw well, and the Dodgers were in town. We got the lay of the land, got Soren a kids meal (which came in a box shaped like home plate), then headed for our seats. We chatted with an usher on the way and he gave Soren a ball from batting practice – super cool. We found our seats, and Soren broke into his kids meal. This was a hotdog, a juice, chips, and there was supposed to be applesauce, but they were out and the vendor generously gave us a pretzel instead. This was perfect as Keke wanted the pretzel and I don’t know that Soren would have eaten the apple sauce anyway.
The updates to the ballpark show well in the bathrooms, where they look like hotel lobby bathrooms; a nice touch. The stands that we sat in still had that old feel (i.e. vintage charm), and we had a beautiful view of the skyline out in right to right center – at one point the sun hit it just perfectly.
The game was very well attended, the concession lines were long, and having all had some of Soren’s kids meal as well as a pre-game meal at the Cubby Bear, we decided not to get other food. They, of course, have the ballpark basics there, but also had some more gourmet options.
I asked around about what local craft beer to get, but the stadium staff that I talked to didn’t seem to have much insight into that (I think the girl I spoke to at guest services might have been under 21). Given that I had the pre-game Old Style, I also chose not to have more beer. We want to try the food and the local beer at each stadium we go to, but Wrigleyville is as much a part of the Wrigley experience as the stadium itself, so we’ll count our Cubby Bear stop as part of it all.
For the game itself, Walker Buehler and Cole Hamels were dueling. Soren was getting antsy, but I wanted to stay until Cody Bellinger (who has been tearing the cover off the ball) came up. We waited, he came to bat, and he continued to tear the cover off the ball as he belted a 3-run home run to put the Dodgers up.
We headed out of the main park, but over to a turf area that the Cubs constructed as part of the renovations. This area is big, open, has concessions, and has a large monitor that shows the game. It is great for families with youngsters that can’t sit still. We watched much of the rest of the game there, and saw Javy Baez hit a three run homer of his own to tie the game up.
We eventually made it to the L and headed back to the hotel. The Cubbies came back and won the game and we were happy to be Northsiders for the day.