Wrigley security boost: Metal detectors and more netting
The new metal detectors outside Wrigley Field should protect happy Chicago Cubs fans from deranged gunmen and terrorists aiming to launch attacks inside the ballpark.
But the more useful protective device might be the new netting designed to save the lives of fans sitting close to the action. Well, the lives of some fans. "I'm glad that Mr. Ricketts is protected," says Kenneth R. Given, a Glen Ellyn attorney sitting directly behind the Cubs dugout at Monday's home opener, one section over from the seats of the team's owner and just beyond the new protective netting that will shield the fans in Ricketts' section from screaming foul balls or thrown baseball bats.
"I thought the net would extend farther," says Given, 63, who says his seat, just beyond the netting extension, makes him the most endangered fan at Wrigley. "These are the death seats."
Last July, during a game against the White Sox, Given was sitting in that seat when a foul ball rocketed off the bat of Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Given stuck out his hand in an attempt to shield one of his adult sons, and the son did the same.
"It broke my hand," Given says of the wicked liner.
"Sitting here, you don't try to catch a ball," Given says, explaining how he was glad he reacted quickly enough to keep the ball from hitting someone in the face. "I tell people, 'Don't sit here on your cellphone. You need to pay attention.' Anyone who has a kid sitting here is an idiot."
Last August, a Wrigley fan was carried out on a stretcher after she was hit by a Kyle Schwarber line drive. Similar injuries to fans in Detroit and Boston led Major League Baseball to look at the issue, and Wrigley is among several ballparks with more safety netting this year. Given, who also has season tickets to Chicago Blackhawks games, notes that the National Hockey League installed netting for the 2003-04 season after a 13-year-old girl was killed by a flying puck.
He's not about to try to catch a foul ball at Wrigley. But the Cubs fan sitting next to him says the risk is worth the "once in a lifetime" chance to sit in the front row at a Cubs game.
"I'm an advocate of not having the screen," says Norm Tolle, 59, a barber at the Busy Bee Barber Shop in Glen Ellyn who was a good enough baseball player in his youth to make as far as a rookie league for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "If people aren't looking, you run that danger," says Tolle, who lives in Wheaton.
Unlike last year's Opening Night, which was marred by a lack of working bathrooms, this year's first game at Wrigley features plenty of new aesthetic touches, such as antique grill work, artistic arches and terra cotta tiles.
Fans complain about some slow lines at concession stands and the lack of a single Cubs hit until the 7th. But a late rally capped by an Addison Russell homer in the 8th gives the Cubs an amazing 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and sends fans home happy.
Fans aren't as thrilled with the metal detectors outside Wrigley, but they accept them.
"I'm OK with it," says Chuck Bosworth, 37, who grew up in Ingleside and now lives in Springfield. "Major League Baseball is trying to keep people safe."
"I've gone through metal detectors at airports and theme parks," says fan Roger Schumacher, 23, of Fox Lake. "Just make sure your pockets are empty."
That's not a problem for season-ticket holder Wally Scott, 53, of Palatine. A pilot for United Airlines, Scott deals with security at the airports in places such as Tel Aviv, Israel, and Mumbai, India.
"It's something we have to live with," Scott says. Most ballparks added the metal detectors last year, and Scott says the process will become routine.
"It worked quickly at Pittsburgh," says Scott, who went through the metal detector before watching the Cubs win the wild-card game at the start of last season's playoffs. When a team hasn't won a World Series since 1908, fans are willing to put up with some inconveniences.
If the Cubs make it to the World Series this season, giddy Cubs fans gladly would submit to strip-searches.