Cubs players excited about Wrigley Field renovation plan
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 7, 2013 6:48PM
The right field digital scoreboard displays an opening day sign at Wrigley Field Thursday, April 5, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
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Updated: April 7, 2013 9:25PM
ATLANTA — The business side imagines all the money the Cubs will rake in because of the Wrigley Field renovations. The baseball side imagines all the free agents who won’t use the lousy working conditions at Wrigley as an excuse for choosing another team.
Pitcher Jeff Samardzija imagines a 6,000-square-foot Jumbotron on top of the left-field bleachers and thinks about cartoons.
“Like the opening of the Flintstones, right? When the car tips over,” he said, smiling.
Let the dog and pony show begin as the Cubs return to Wrigley Field on Monday for a home opener that’s expected to be more about a new-look ballpark than another new-look ballclub.
It appeared the Cubs and City Hall would announce a $500 million renovation plan Monday, but talks hit a snag Saturday regarding the size of signage, rooftop owners’ compensation and an extension of their revenue-sharing agreement with the team.
Most of the Cubs players who will be introduced Monday probably won’t be around when the first stage or two of the five-year project is done.
“By 2015, I don’t know where I’ll be,” said left fielder Alfonso Soriano, whose eight-year contract is up after next year. “Maybe I’ll go back as a fan and watch the game. Maybe throw out the first pitch.”
Maybe he’ll stick around for the duration of the contract, whether the Cubs want to trade him or not. Soriano, who has full no-trade rights, said the thought of opening next season with a new clubhouse, dugout, weight room and underground batting cage might make him even less amenable to leaving.
“I want to feel comfortable,” he said. “I hope that we don’t get to that point. Like I’ve said, I always want to be part of this team. If the new things [are] coming next year or not, I always want to be part of the team.”
Either way, take a good look around the Friendly Confines on one last, bunting-clad Opening Day before the anticipated start of the most conspicuous, even controversial, changes to Wrigley Field since lights were installed 25 years ago.
“You kind of fall in love with the place as it is right now as a player, especially the way you enter the clubhouse, the way you leave the clubhouse, the way you go to the dugout and things like that,” Samardzija said, “and you know that’ll all be different. That’s the way things go sometimes.
“It’ll be cool down the road to say you played at the old place and remember what it was like.”
Samardzija, a self-described traditionalist who grew up a fan in Northwest Indiana, sees the changes as positive.
“From what I’ve seen of the plans, they’re still trying to keep the traditional feel to it, which is exciting,” he said. “A Jumbotron is key just because nowadays replay in sports is such an important part of the game. And I think it’s a practical thing. Is it necessarily needed for in-between-inning promos? Probably not. We could probably do without those.”
Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson, who will make his Cubs home debut Monday, has a four-year contract that suggests he could witness most of the proposed renovation up close.
“It’ll probably be weird at first seeing Wrigley with a Jumbotron,” he said. “But, I mean, it’s 2013.”
For all the weirdness, players see other tangible, often overlooked benefits.
Told the proposed dimensions of the Jumbotron, Soriano said, “That could knock down the wind [that blows in early in the season]. Could be better for the hitters. That’s how I look at it.”
Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney sees, well, seeing better at night.
“Maybe a Jumbotron will help the lighting,” he said. “That’s where I’m coming from. Seriously, a big Jumbotron can help that.”
So could 10 or more night games, which is part of the anticipated deal with the city.
“I think it’s going to be kind of an exciting thing,” Barney said. “When you’re adding things, you’re not taking away any of the history and the past. It’s just kind of catching up to what other stadiums are doing.”