Kasper: Something special about Wrigley Field

Updated 4/7/2013 9:08 PM
  • Baseball returns to Wrigley Field on Monday for the Cubs' home opener.

    Baseball returns to Wrigley Field on Monday for the Cubs' home opener. Associated Press/2012 file

Ivy-covered outfield walls, a hand-operated scoreboard, constantly changing weather conditions, a chorus of 40,000 singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Just a few of the characteristics that make Wrigley Field truly unique, and, in my opinion, the best baseball experience in the big leagues.

Monday, the old ballpark opens for business for the 100th year, with the Cubs occupying the Friendly Confines for 98 of those seasons.

It has been a rather prominent topic of conversation over the past several months since the Cubs announced their five-year renovation plan, pending city approval.

I'm just a baseball broadcaster, not a politician or financial analyst, so I will stay far away from the particulars of the impending deal.

But from a purely selfish standpoint, I am very excited for the Cubs to get moving on their plans to ensure the future of Wrigley Field for generations to come.

When I think about what really makes the yard so special, I always start with the city setting.

Growing up in rural Michigan, I have vivid memories of going to old Tiger Stadium in downtown Detroit and being struck by the hustle and bustle around the park on game day. It was thrilling to be in the heart of a huge, busy city for a major-league game.

The only problem there, though, was that the stadium was fully enclosed, so once you passed through the turnstile, you didn't get a true city vibe.

That is where Wrigley just takes your breath away. Not only is Lakeview hopping with excitement when you arrive in the area, but when you walk into the park, you continue to experience the city's landscape because it is so visible from almost every vantage point in the stadium.

That unique relationship between the park and the urban environment around it is a very special thing. And while some new signage in the form of a digital board or two may slightly alter the look of the park, those enhancements won't damage fans' views of the neighborhood because the Cubs will do everything to maintain Wrigley's open feel.

Every year it seems we read a column or two about how decrepit and inconvenient Wrigley Field is and how much easier it is going to more modern stadiums. And there is some truth to that.

It's not the most practical location, parking is scarce, you have to walk up a series of ramps to get to the top of the park, and elevator service is almost nonexistent.

But that's exactly why this treasured, from-a-different-era landmark should be preserved and, more important, updated, which is exactly what the team is going to do.

Every day I walk into Wrigley Field, I ponder a fan buying a ticket to see Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series, Hank Greenberg in the 1945 Classic, Ernie Banks in his rookie season or Harry Caray in the booth. That stuff gives me goose bumps.

Baseball's history is an incredibly powerful magnet for its fans, and to continue to attend games where all those great Hall of Famers once actually performed is something I cherish deeply.

One thing we know about baseball and life in general is that change is constant. And while Wrigley Field will be updated to maximize the ballpark experience for fans and revenue for the team, the essence of it remains unaltered, a slice of 20th-century baseball history that will now be enjoyed by fans for decades to come.

•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]

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