CHICAGO — I finally made it to Wrigleyville.
For a long time, I’ve dreamed of seeing a game at Wrigley Field — the iconic ballpark with ivy-covered outfield walls that opened in 1914.
I had experienced America’s favorite pastime at 19 of the 30 MLB stadiums, plus five former big-league fields (I’ll list all of them below). My family and I even posed outside Wrigley — the home of the Cubs since 1916 — during a 2006 trip to Chicago.
But I had never stepped inside the Friendly Confines or joined the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. Timing and circumstances just never aligned.
In 2015, I ranked the remaining destinations on my baseball bucket list. Since then, I had made it to No. 2 PNC Park in Pittsburgh and No. 3 Comerica Park in Detroit. But No. 1 Wrigley remained elusive.
But when I learned my beloved Texas Rangers would be playing a weekend series at Wrigley this April, I hatched a plan. With my wife Tamie’s blessing, I decided to take my sons Brady and Keaton and my 4-year-old grandson, Bennett, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the Rangers play the Cubs in Chicago.
We surprised my sons and grandson — who share my love for baseball — with the idea at Christmas, and they reacted with excitement. (The women in the family are planning their own trip!)
We flew from Oklahoma City to Chicago and rode a city transit train downtown to our hotel.
We ate at popular Chicago restaurants such as Portillo’s and Giordano’s Pizza. We visited the world’s largest Starbucks and The Bean in Millennium Park. We rode an elevator to the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower and enjoyed an awesome view of the Windy City.
But those were hors d’oeuvres. The main course was Wrigley.
The first game started at 1:20 p.m. on a Friday. The temperature was in the early 40s. Friends warned us to expect it to be cold. But I think we underestimated how chilly it would feel as the wind circulated. I hate to admit it, by Brady and I both spent $50 on Cubs blankets during the game. Brady and Bennett shared one. Keaton and I covered up with the other.
But oh, what a remarkable experience.
Wrigley met all my expectations, just as the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston did years earlier. The Cubs fans were super into the game and their team. At the same time, they were friendly, even to folks in Rangers attire.
Sadly, Texas lost that Friday — and again Saturday. On the bright side, the weather was slightly warmer for the second game. Texas finally beat the Cubs on Sunday after we had flown home.
But years from now, I probably won’t remember who won. But I will savor the hot dogs I ate, the $12 hot chocolate I drank (did I mention it was cold?) and the joy I felt shivering in my seat alongside my sons and grandson.
Thankfully, it’s really not about the final score or the money spent. My love for baseball is deeper than that.
That’s why I’m so excited that I finally made it to Wrigleyville.
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Ballparks where I’ve seen games
Current: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, New York Mets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Texas and Washington.
Former: Atlanta, New York Mets, St. Louis and Texas (both former ballparks).
Still on bucket list: Arizona, Atlanta, Miami, Minnesota, New York Yankees, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto and San Diego.
Featured photo by Kent Weakley/Shutterstock.com