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updated: 4/4/2014 5:35 PM

Suburban fans find Opening Day at Wrigley plenty cool

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  • Video: Cub fans hopeful

  • Fernando and Hillary Denava of Mount Prospect pose with 2-year-old son Maddox, who is braving his third Cubs home opener. "Well, the first one, he was in the womb," Hillary says.

       Fernando and Hillary Denava of Mount Prospect pose with 2-year-old son Maddox, who is braving his third Cubs home opener. "Well, the first one, he was in the womb," Hillary says.
    Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • From left, Pete Smart, Jonny Yarnall, Steven Smart, Sean Smart and Dave Yarnall were prepared for the cold afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Smarts, of Lake Villa, and Yarnalls, of Lindenhurst, play hockey together on Lake Linden, "so we're used to the cold," Dave Yarnall says.

       From left, Pete Smart, Jonny Yarnall, Steven Smart, Sean Smart and Dave Yarnall were prepared for the cold afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Smarts, of Lake Villa, and Yarnalls, of Lindenhurst, play hockey together on Lake Linden, "so we're used to the cold," Dave Yarnall says.
    Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

 
 

Friday's Opening Day fans help the Cubs celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field with dreams of a modern championship team and a ballpark to match. But ignore the cellphone selfies and the small video screen above the right field wall, and you might think it's 1940, 1967 or 1979.

The promised $300 million renovation of Wrigley, with its lush facilities for players and giant Jumbotron for the fans, is just a bit behind schedule. So is the team rebuilding project that has been brewing since the 1908 World Series championship. Neither of those delays can deter Dave Yarnall of Lindenhurst from an afternoon away from work to take in a ballgame on a raw day with a 23-mph wind and a 28-degree wind chill.

"Love of the Cubs," Yarnall says to explain away any of the reasons a person might opt to be elsewhere. The Lake County probation officer and his 18-year-old son, Jonny, won't let a mediocre team, a 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, long lines at the bathroom or the 38-degree temperature keep them from having fun with 18-year-old twins Steve and Sean Smart, and their dad, Pete, 54, of Lake Villa.

"We all play pond hockey together, so we're used to the cold," says Dave Yarnall, explaining how the breeze on the ice of Lake Linden can be nippier than anything Wrigley offers.

A little fussy as his mom wipes his runny nose, Maddox Denava of Mount Prospect has an Opening Day streak older than he is.

"This is his third Opener," says proud papa Fernando Denava, 24, who took the day off from his job as an auto repair shop manager.

"Well, the first one, he was in the womb," mom Hillary, 22, says of her young Cub fan who turns 2 on June 10.

As Mom scoots after the toddler, Dad addresses the obvious question about whether they named their son Maddox as a nod to the great Cub pitcher Greg Maddux.

"Yeah," the dad says as his wife drifts out of hearing range. "She won't admit that, though."

They are expecting again, but it seems unlikely they'll name the second kid Bonifacio, after current Cub favorite Emilio Bonifacio, who enters the day batting a phenomenal .688 before going hitless on Friday. Fernando Denava predicts the Cubs will be winners before his son starts grade school, because of the talent of the team's youngsters in the minor leagues.

"Those kids coming up are going to be huge," Denava says. "Give us two or three more years and we're going to be fun."

When the Ricketts family bought the Cubs in the fall of 2010, Tom Ricketts promised that the family would modernize the century-old ballpark, restock the farm team, build a contender and win a World Series.

"I love what they're doing," says Steven Smart of Lake Villa, who admits to skipping school at Grayslake North High School with his brother, Sean.

"We said we were going out of town," says Sean Smart, pointing out that Chicago technically is out of town from Grayslake.

"I was down here in 1969 when the Cubs blew it," says their dad, Pete Smart, 54, a plumber who wears a Cubs cap but proudly displays his World Champion San Francisco Giants sweatshirt. "That's when I became a full-time Giants fan."

Dallas residents Sonny Boyer, 32, and his sister, Michelle Boyer, 35, left 84-degree comfort in Dallas to fly in for the season's first game at Wrigley.

"This is my fifth year for Opening Day," Sonny Boyer says, shrugging off the cold. "It's like my own personal holiday. Our Cubbies are worth it. It's a rough stretch, but I believe they are going in the right direction."

As he reflects, the wind blows Chase Utley's fly ball into the right-field bleachers to give Philadelphia a 3-2 lead from which the Cubs will never recover.

"We can be patient a few more years," says Steven Smart, predicting the Cubs will start winning next year, or the year after, or the year after that.

"Let's just hope it happens before I die," says Dave Yarnall, who celebrates his 57th birthday Saturday and vows to keep coming even if dreams of modern amenities and a championship team don't materialize. "I've had a lifetime of misery. I'll still come."

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