Are Cubs hot enough to draw 3 million fans this year?
The old Chicago legend is "vote early, vote often."
Chicago Cubs fans attending Monday night's home opener are urged to come out early. With the success the Cubs had last season and the good start the team is off to so far, they're surely to come out often.
Could this season be a complete sellout?
"I don't know," team chairman Tom Ricketts said before the season opener last week at Anaheim. "The tough one on that is April and May. A lot of it is weather dependent. We'll see, but I would advise anyone to make sure they get their tickets sooner rather than later just because we have sold out a lot of games already."
Capacity at Wrigley Field is listed at 41,268. If the Cubs are able to get in 81 gates, that would translate into a season attendance of 3,342,708 if they were to sell out every game.
The Cub have not drawn 3 million or more fans in season since 2011. Last year's 97-win team drew 2,959,812 and surprised most observers by making the playoffs and advancing to the National League championship series.
As far as getting out there early, especially on Opening Day, Ricketts couldn't stress that enough. Wrigley Field will have metal detectors at each entrance as part of Major League Baseball's security procedures.
According to the Cubs: "Gates will open 30 minutes earlier than the standard two-hour window on Opening Night, at 4:35 p.m., to help accommodate the new security procedures implemented at Wrigley Field this season, including mandatory metal-detector screenings as fans enter the gates. Fans are encouraged to arrive to games earlier this season and can find information about the new screening process at www.cubs.com/security."
The Cubs have gone through their second winter of the multiyear renovation/restoration of Wrigley Field. The marquee above the main entrance has been restored and returned to its place.
Fans won't see many changes to the park as most of this past winter's work consisted of behind-the-scenes and infrastructure improvements.
The biggest and most welcome change for the players will the opening of the new home clubhouse. The Cubs will have the second-largest home clubhouse in the major leagues; the Yankees are No. 1. The new digs have been deemed so special that the players will get the first look at it, with no media previews. Media members will get their official guided tour Tuesday.
Wrigley Field rocked late last season as the team made its charge into the playoffs. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein appreciates the crowd support.
"When the park is packed and the crowd is really into the game and they can sense a win or they sense a vulnerability in the opponent in a tie game or a reliever comes on for the other team, the visitors, in the eighth inning," he said. "Ball one, our crowd picks up a little bit. Ball two, they're screaming.
"You're more likely to see ball three or ball four that way. I think if we get off to a good start with our fans behind us as we will, we can try to have an even greater homefield advantage than we've enjoyed over the years."
On many days and nights from 2012-14, as the Cubs endured losing seasons as part of their rebuilding process, the ballpark sounded more like a library late in games as many fans beat it home.
The Cubs hope those days are gone for good.
"Our fans have been incredibly supportive, to their credit, even when things weren't going that well at the big-league level," Epstein said. "We were very transparent of what we were doing, and they repaid us by being incredibly supportive even when they didn't have some obvious reasons to be so.
"It's an added incentive for us, the primary incentive for us, to go out and have a season that is worthy of their support. They've been terrific. To the extent that they trust us to work hard and try to always do what's right for the organization, we really appreciate that.
"It's a compliment to the whole organization."
Chicago Cubs scouting reportChicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field
TV: WGN Monday; Comcast SportsNet-Plus Wednesday; Comcast SportsNet Thursday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jon Lester (1-0) vs. Brandon Finnegan (0-0) Monday; John Lackey (1-0) vs. Alfredo Simon (0-0) Wednesday; Jason Hammel (0-0) vs. Raisel Iglesias (1-0) Thursday. All games 7:05 p.m.
At a glance: After beginning the season going 5-1 on the road, the Cubs come home to Wrigley Field, and the players no doubt will be delighted to have a new, large home clubhouse. Monday will be the Reds' first road game of the season. Finnegan came to Cincinnati from the Royals last year in the Johnny Cueto trade. Short-time Cub Dan Straily is on the Reds' roster. Although the Reds are picked by most to finish last in the NL Central, their lineup still features Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton. The Cubs won last year's season series 13-6. This will be the second year in a row that Lester pitches the home opener.
Next: Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles