Toronto Road Trip: Cubs @ Jays Game #1

More Convention Center Than Ballpark

After our day of exploring downtown Toronto, we returned to the hotel to change into our Cubby blue and took the subway to the ballpark at Rogers Centre. Chicago’s el hasn’t used subway tokens for years now, so we all experienced a touch of nostalgia as we purchased a handful of tokens for our trips to and from the ballpark. The Toronto subway was clean and easy to navigate for this public transportation savvy crowd.

The weather report called for thunderstorms to roll through, so for Friday’s game I experienced my first baseball game under a dome. Entering the concrete stadium, with its artificial light and booming sound system, felt less like game day excitement and more like attending an arena rock concert. Worse yet, when the trailers for Get Smart and The Love Guru began playing on the JumboTron (amidst the team promos, the silly animated games, and the Nicorette advertisements) it felt more like the days when I attended video industry conventions, with the echoing cacophony of film trailers blaring at top volume.

Yet Another Reason to Hate the JumboTron

My running commentary of impressions from the Toronto Blue Jays home game follows:

The dome is closed and man is it bright in here ~~~ Twenty minutes before game time, the JumboTron is already flashing images and the music is pounding ~~~ At least the home team fans are wearing Blue Jays’ colors, shirts and jerseys (unlike the Pittsburgh Pirate fans who favored hockey team regalia when I was at a Pirates home game last year) ~~~ No surprise, the visiting team is well represented in the stands—there are Cub fans everywhere they play ~~~ Man, is it bright in here ~~~ The grounds crew has plenty of small farm equipment on the field, including a mini-tractor, which baffles us when we learn from a nearby local fan that the field isn’t real grass, it’s “field turf ~~~

Tending to the "Grass"

~~~ Hot dogs are a solid “C”—the dog gets points for being “all beef” but it’s lacking in flavor and the bun is chewy ~~~ Beer is really expensive, but they get points for offering premium selections other than Bud and Bud Light ~~~ Like all JumboTron games I’ve been to, there’s plenty that goes on before the first pitch—movie ads, contest winners, cars driving on and off the field—thank God for that field turf! ~~~

Must Everyone Enter the Stadium by Driving on the Field

~~~ School kids sitting in the outfield occasionally scream, increasing the feeling that we’re at an indoor amusement park ~~~ A local heckler just off to our left wins the award for most polite heckling by yelling obscure facts about Cub players that he admittedly found on the Internet ~~~ ”It’s called Wikipedia, baby!” ~~~  This becomes our catch phrase for the rest of the trip ~~~ It’s a bit humid in here and we’re wishing they’d open up the dome—This is before we hear thunder during the seventh inning and learn that it’s pouring rain outside ~~~ Hometown fans near us are unhappy their beloved former Blue Jay Reed Johnson isn’t playing tonight and occasionally someone in the crowd yells, “We want Reed!” ~~~ Cubs’ fans are uncharacteristically quiet—Of course, our team isn’t giving us much in this game to cheer about ~~~ When the Jays hit a home run, an animated train races across the JumboTron to the sound of a very loud train whistle ~~~ None of us can figure out why a train? ~~~ We get a kick out of the grounds crew sweeping the grass ~~~

The Grounds Crew Makes a Big Production Out of Tending the Fake Grass

~~~ The school kids are bored and repeatedly try to get the wave going around the stands ~~~ They’re finally successful during a crucial moment during the Cubs’ at-bat—neither lasts very long ~~~ Did I mention it’s bright in here? ~~~ It’s beginning to feel like we’re watching a baseball game inside Woodfield Mall, Chicago’s largest indoor mall ~~~ I can’t wait to get out of here ~~~ The ushers we’ve talked to are pretty clueless, misinforming us about beer sales and how to get out of the park ~~~ Concession workers are dressed like movie theater employees ~~~ The movie theater ambiance is enforced by the concessions sold: popcorn, red vines, and candy ~~~ By the end of the game, the volume seems to have cranked way up ~~~ The sound of the crowd and the music bouncing off the dome has become deafening ~~~ The dugouts are located closer to home plate and there’s no railing between the players and the field ~~~ The infield is turf, not dirt ~~~ Tonight is “Flashback Friday”—perhaps that explains the Jay’s ugly powder-blue uniforms with the retro-‘70s lettering ~~~ This place is empty—only 27,800 fans in attendance ~~~ Entire sections are empty ~~~

Stadium Half Empty

The JumboTron displays one, and only one, fact per player when they come up to bat ~~~ Only one? “It’s called Wikipedia baby!” ~~~ There’s not much yelling from the vendors in the stands. No “Peanuts. Get your peanuts here!” ~~~ Between innings, a host who’s standing somewhere in the park appears on the JumboTron to make announcements about sponsors and give-away contests, or the crowd will be urged to dance on camera or cheer for sling-shot t-shirts or a FedEx mystery box of prizes—Every single moment is filled with some sort of noise and hype ~~~ The Seventh Inning Stretch is a ridiculous TaeBo-like workout routine led by “visitors” on the field ~~~ Anyone trying these moves would knock out the people sitting around them ~~~ A couple in a section behind us gets engaged on the JumboTron ~~~ Folks around them buy the happy couple beers and a few innings later they both looked very trashed ~~~ In our section, the game isn’t broadcast in the concession area, nor is it piped into the restrooms ~~~ For a serious baseball fan, it’s difficult to follow other games going on elsewhere in the league—the outfield screens are tough to read during play and when you want to check them in between sides, they change to advertisements ~~~ Fans get an “A” for being into the game and not having to rely on the JumbTron to tell them when to make some noise and cheer their team ~~~ The park gets an “F”—we can’t stand the look, feel and vibe of Rogers Centre ~~~

More Parking Garage Than Ballpark

Surprise Game

Anne is my Cubs connection. She works with a bunch of Cubs fans who are constantly giving her opportunities to snatch up tickets. Yesterday was one such opportunity, only two better–tickets five rows behind home plate…for free! (I sat in these same seats two years ago.) Oh yeah!

So last night I unexpectedly found myself watching the Cubs get beat by the Brewers but we had a good time doing it, despite the frigid cold. This is the first game I’ve watched while bundled up in blankets. The game was slow, probably due to the cold, and for the first time I left a Cubs game before it was over.

I sat next to a very friendly Cubs fan from Quebec who stuck out the cold until the sixth inning when he bought one of those hideous and hideously expensive Cubs fleece blankets. He pulled it out and the Cubs got hot, scoring three times. We dubbed it the Lucky Blanket. Unfortunately, the luck didn’t last. After that seventh inning rally, we stayed for the eighth, but when the Brewers scored again and the Cubs fell even more behind we decided to go. At that point, we were all pretty darn cold. I didn’t get feeling back in my feet until we were back on Waveland Avenue and I’m only now just beginning to feel warmed up to the bones.

If You’re Going to Freeze Your Keister Off at the Cubs Game, The Least They Could Do Is Win

I was bundled up in four layers to watch the Cubs lose this afternoon. The wind off the lake was hitting Wrigley Field pretty hard and if you were sitting in the shade (like we were) it was mighty cold. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the Cubbies had given us something to cheer about. Clapping and whooping it up while jumping up and down really gets the blood flowing. Sitting on your hands to keep them warm does not.

Four yahoos sitting directly behind us were amusing for about two minutes and then they became an incredibly annoying Chicago sports cliche. If the words “dude” and “f**k” had been removed from their lexicon, they wouldn’t have had ten words to say to one another. Thankfully, they arrived late and left early when the Reds increased their lead to six in the seventh inning, leaving us to watch the Cubs lose 9-2 in peace.

Second Game’s the Charm

Right?

Tonight is where we turn it around. Yesterday’s gathering of friends was fun–except for the outcome of the game, of course. Tonight’s game is off to a much better start. 2-0 Cubs, but it’s early yet and anything can happen. Hang on Cubs’ fans.

I have only two comments so far:

  • These nine o’clock starts are a killer. Especially when you’ve got deliberate pitching like tonight. We’re only two innings in and it’s already ten. At this rate, we’ll be into the wee hours of the morning before this one is settled.
  • Who is the group of yahoos in the jury box behind home plate? Amazingly annoying. I don’t care to watch some guy stuff his face with a salad while another guy on a cell phone waves hysterically to the folks at home. And don’t get me started on the people who are treating it like a cocktail party, gabbing with friends with their back to the field! Geez! Yesterday’s joker with the flashing neon Cubs sign was ridiculous. How did he think he’d get away with that. Idjit.

Added @ 10:50pm: Ugh. Well, that didn’t last long. Ohhhh…it’s going to be a long night. 6-2 Diamondbacks, 11pm and it’s only the fourth inning. Groan.

Added @ 11:50pm: Hey it’s almost Friday! And hey, we’re still getting our butts kicked! 8-2 D’backs (Dumb nickname.) I think Ron Santo said it best: “Well, we walked into a buzz saw tonight.”

And So It Begins

I couldn’t let the day go by without yelling, “GO CUBS!!!”

There. I said it.

A group of friends will gather later today at my place for grilled brats, beer, apple pie, and baseball. The game doesn’t start until 9 p.m. central time so it could be a long night. Lucky hats, shirts and underwear shall be donned throughout Chicago. Tonight it begins!

Go Cubbies!

Radio Baseball

I finally purchased a little radio to have at my desk at work so I can follow the Cubs games. They’re on a whopping six game winning streak and playing the first-place Milwaukee Brewers today; what better time to do it.

So, I was very excited for today’s game. Friday afternoon, I’ve got a bunch of busy work–a game on the radio will be great. Well…it’s the top of the first inning and the Cubs are already down 5-zip.

We’ll see how much longer the radio stays on.

Cubs 9, Brewers 3, Temp 46 and Falling

CubscIt’s springtime in Chicago, meaning yesterday it felt like winter.

Yesterday’s Cubs game had an hour rain delay and by the time it started the temp was around 46. With the wind gusting off the lake it felt a lot chillier. Fortunately, the Cubs did well and by the fourth inning, when I started to lose the feeling in my toes, the Cubs got hot and started scoring runs, giving appreciative fans something to jump up and down about, getting the blood flowing again.

I kept thinking how in just four days the temp is predicted to be 80 degrees. 80!!!??!

Michael Keaton threw out the opening pitch and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the Seventh Inning Stretch. He needed a cheat sheet for the words–how lame is that.