Last night was one of firsts. Joe Maddon managed his first game in the Cubs dugout. Jon Lester made his first start as the new ace on the North Side.
It was also a personal first: I had the pleasure of attending my first Opening Day. And even though the outcome wasn’t what I was hoping for (3-0 loss), I had a blast. Here’s a recap of the experience. (Thanks goes to the wife for taking some great pictures.)
Around 4:00, I was oozing optimism as I headed to Wrigleyville to meet up with some friends for drinks. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and we had Jon Lester on our side.
In what could’ve possibly been seen as some sort of foreshadowing, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees around 6:00. But walking from the bar to the ballpark and realizing I was probably vastly under-dressed for the weather, I was still feeling good.
I found my seat in section 239 — in what will be my home away from home this summer.
This will be my first year of Cubs season tickets since the early ’90s. Pretty excited about it.
I’m not sure if the Cubs will continue to put on pregame concerts, but if they do, I’d hope they’d ramp up the soundsystem a bit. Fall Out Boy took the (quite small) stage around 6:30, playing three songs.
The sound was pretty bad, and overall not the greatest performance I’ve seen. I liked the idea of having a performance to get the crowd fired up, however. Just needs some better execution.
Lineups were introduced, with Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester receiving the best reactions. A number of fans booed Edwin Jackson when he was announced, which annoys me to no end. Not the time or the place, people.
Next the Cubs honored both the Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras, a former top prospect who died in a car crash this past offseason, and Mr. Cub — Ernie Banks. I’m glad the Cubs paid respect to Taveras; it was a nice touch. The Banks tribute on the Jumbotron looked great.
Speaking of the new left-field video board, I liked it — but perhaps not as much as I was expecting. It’s an impressive structure, with a crisp picture, and I really enjoyed being able to see a replay.
It’s definitely massive, and I actually felt like it made me ignore the classic scoreboard at times. Overall, I think it will help round out the fan experience at Wrigley.
However, I have a couple minor complaints. My main one is that for each batter, it doesn’t provide information on what the player has done in previous at-bats. It gives updated batting average, OBP and slugging stats, but I would like it to remind me “This guy is 2-for-3 with a double and a run.” (Unfortunately, this wouldn’t have been something we’d have seen for a Cubs hitter last night.)
I would have to imagine this info will be appearing somewhere at some point. It used to appear under the old scoreboard on the small LED screen, but that has been removed.
My other complaint is it doesn’t show a full lineup. It does show the three hitters that will follow, but I’d like to see more.
I imagine the video board layout can be tweaked throughout the year. Perhaps some of the changes will come about when the right-field board is completed this summer. I would imagine so, anyway.
When the Cubs took the field, I was delighted to hear the return of Van Halen’s “Jump” used as the warmup song. Whenever I hear this song, it makes me think of the Cubs and going to games with my dad, watching Andre Dawson absolutely rifle the ball during warmups to whomever was playing center field.
Finally, around 7:15, Jon Lester threw the first pitch of the 2015 season. The crowd was pumped, and the energy was intense.
After that first-pitch strike from Lester, things kind of went downhill for the Cubs. Lester wasn’t very sharp, although he gave up some bloop hits and didn’t have great outfield defense behind him. But despite this, the new Cubs ace only gave up three runs and he struck out six.
The real disappointment, however, was the offense. The Cubs had three lead-off doubles throughout the night, and failed to push across a single run. They struck out 12 times.
It was a frustrating loss, but I’m not too down about it. It’s only one game. Sometimes you’re going to run into Wainwright when he’s dealing (although the Cubs have had some success off him in the past). And it was a cold night — not great hitting weather.
And in terms of positives, the Cubs bullpen looked great, which probably shouldn’t be surprising. The Cubs also worked some counts at the plate and got guys on base. One or two well-timed hits and the outcome would’ve been quite different.
There were also a couple long fly-outs that had a chance to leave the yard had the wind not been blowing in.
Wait, THIS is the line??
About midway through the game, and a few adult beverages down, I ventured off to go to the bathroom. Walking through the concourse was a major struggle. I chalked it up to it being Opening Day. After all, I’d never been before, so figured maybe this was normal.
Trying to make my way to the bathroom entrance, I wondered why every single person seemed to be walking in the opposite direction. Then I realized why: they were trying to get in line for the bathroom, which was, in fact, behind me.
This line stretched back endlessly — it would have taken forever. I decided to try again later, but subsequently heard from random fans that lines were at least an hour long. I heard an usher say it was going to be like this until the bleachers are opened. Another said bathrooms throughout the park were closed, and everyone was funneling into our section.
It was pretty awful. I didn’t see anyone peeing in cups, but I’m sure it happened.
Leading up to Opening Day, we wondered whether the renovations would be ready in time. It appears not everything was indeed ready, and it’s too bad.
I really hope they figure it out. And soon.
So, it was a bummer of a night in more ways than one. But it’s OK. Because baseball is finally back.