Field Gets New Look For Cubs Home Opener
Fans, Players Hope Renovation Will
Make Friendly Confines Friendlier
7, 2006 11:02 am US/Central
Derrek Lee leaned against the dugout railing Thursday, peered toward the outfield
and gave Wrigley Field's makeover a positive review.
pretty nice," he said.
noticed the new brick wall outside the stadium along Waveland Avenue and observed,
"It's kind of cool. They cleaned it up."
stadium has a new look, and the Chicago Cubs are hoping for better results at
home this season -- starting Friday when they host their old rivals the St. Louis
Cardinals, who led the majors with 100 victories last season. Chicago sends Greg
Maddux to the mound versus Jeff Suppan, a 318-game winner.
Cubs opened the season by splitting two games at Cincinnati. Now, they're at home,
where they were five games below .500 last year.
always fun facing the Cardinals," Maddux said. "It's a very good atmosphere.
They could have very easily won the World Series last year."
course, the team on Chicago's south side -- the White Sox -- did just that, capturing
the city's first baseball championship since 1917. Now, the heat is on the Cubs,
who haven't won it all since 1908.
have grown weary of the complacency that surrounded the Cubs for all these years,"
catcher Michael Barrett said. "Cubs fans love this team. ... Now with the
White Sox having won the World Series, their quest for this team to win the championship
is on the tip of their brain.
the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning: 'I've got to
go to work and put up with all the White Sox fans. Now more than ever, I need
the Cubs to play together and win."'
team couldn't agree more.
The Cubs added
the leadoff hitter they sorely lacked last season in Juan Pierre. They have a
new right fielder, Jacque Jones, and their bullpen is deeper with the acquisitions
of Scott Eyre and Bob Howry.
didn't stop with the roster.
spruced up one of baseball's grand old stadiums in the offseason, expanding the
bleacher area. The $13.5 million project added about 1,800 bleacher seats, a lounge
in center field, restrooms, concession stands, a walkway that stretches from foul
pole to foul pole and improved wheelchair access.
Cubs also replaced the brick walls along Sheffield and Waveland avenues outside,
added a grand entrance to the bleachers and elevated the top of that section,
which may obstruct some of the views from the neighboring rooftops.
don't think balls are going to be flying into the street like they were the last
couple years, but it looks good," Lee said.
Dusty Baker and some hitters expressed mild concern about a possible glare from
the concrete, which will be painted green when the weather warms, and the lights
in the center-field lounge. But a more pressing issue is establishing a home-field
"There shouldn't be
a better place to have a home-field advantage than here at Wrigley," Walker
But the confines were anything
but friendly for the Cubs last season, when they finished fourth in the NL Central
They were 38-43 at home, and
the list of explanations was wide-ranging.
pointed out that the Cubs play most of their home games in the day and said, "A
lot of guys have had trouble their first year, and then they adjust and get back
the struggles of Corey Patterson and LaTroy Hawkins and said, "This is the
greatest place to play, and for some guys, it can be the worst place to play."
Patterson, who hit .215 and failed as the leadoff batter, Wrigley Field was like
a horror chamber. Same goes for Hawkins, who struggled as the closer in 2004 and
early 2005 before being traded to San Francisco in May. Both players were booed
"When things like that
happen, it sort of brings everybody down," Barrett said. "If it doesn't
work out for one teammate, everybody sort of feels the same way. ... We just didn't
do what we needed to do to win last year."
Dempster settled into the closer's role and the Cubs are looking to Pierre do
the same at leadoff.
dependent on a three-run homer every time, you're going to be out of luck,"
Walker said. "We didn't have a leadoff guy the last couple years, and I think
that was an important factor.
Juan Pierre goes, we go."
Pierre is rolling. He's 4-for-10 with four runs.
the Cubs' success largely hinges on the health of pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry
Wood, who remain on the disabled list. And so far this season, Cubs pitchers have
walked 16 batters, including five by Carlos Zambrano in the season-opener.
wouldn't read a whole lot into it," Maddux said.
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