CHICAGO -- On May 13, the Cubs announced that Wrigley Field was approved to host up to 60 percent of the park’s capacity starting with a three-game home series against the Reds at the end of the month. That two-week wait came to an end on Friday, as the series between the two teams at Wrigley Field was finally under way.
“Obviously, I'm really excited,” Javier Báez said Thursday. “Just to have fans back. When they cheer for you, it's a great feeling, at least for me, and now that we're gonna have more percentage [capacity], it’s gonna be great for the city.”
The club was previously approved for 25 percent capacity while also adhering to a list of health and safety protocols. Those safety protocols will still be in place at Wrigley, but the promise of a larger capacity upped the excitement around the team. Perhaps it was that added energy that helped fuel the team’s recent hot streak, as Chicago won its past four series (three on the road) with a 10-3 record since the announcement.
The vaccinated section that opened in the upper deck of the center-field bleachers for the Cubs’ four-game series against the Nationals last week reminded the team what the park could look like with more of a full house, too.
“I got lost a couple of times last homestand in the center-field section, upper deck, where they're passing [and] loading the beer cups up, and you just heard them start to really get loud,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It just is almost distracting from the game. I just turned into a fan for a minute, started watching the crowd and their interaction.”
Last weekend’s road series against the Cardinals provided another sample of what was to come. Over 24,000 fans packed Busch Stadium in each of the three games between the teams, giving Chicago the chance to play in front of its largest crowd since September 2019.
“Being in St. Louis and having that crowd there I think really energized us and got us ready,” Kyle Hendricks said after earning his fifth win of the season Thursday.
The Cubs -- and everyone around Major League Baseball, really -- have talked all season about wanting to get back to normal, and being allowed to at least fill the majority of the Wrigley Field is a step in the right direction. Road trips to St. Louis and Atlanta -- which already allowed increased capacity in their stadiums -- gave Chicago a taste of how “normal” looks.
Now, the Cubs will get to have that feeling in front of their own fans.
“When you get to come to Wrigley Field and start getting these weekend day games where everybody's here and excited to be outside and excited to watch Cubs baseball and bring us a lot of energy, that just takes our game up to another level, and our focus and our excitement when we step out there on the field,” Ross said. “'Fun' is the word that keeps coming to mind.”
They said it
“I guess, looking back on the play itself and having seen the video, part of what you guys saw from me was just immediate frustration of knowing that I was missing time. It wasn't entirely just pain I was reacting to. Obviously, I enjoy playing a lot and knew that this was gonna leave me out for a little bit, so that's where you kind of saw some of the emotion from that.” -- Nico Hoerner, on his reaction to his left hamstring injury
“That's not a part of my job right now. We're at the back end of May, things have been going well. We're just trying to keep to the business at hand, trying to win baseball games and continue to do that. Build. Get better. I think that's everybody's focus in here.” -- Ross, on the team possibly making transactions