Back in June 2012 I was in Chicago for business. It was a short trip. I flew in on a Sunday and met a friend for a fantastic lobster dinner at Shaw’s Crab House.
I didn’t have a lot of time in Chicago so I couldn’t explore too much. I walked around downtown for a while after that Sunday dinner. I enjoy big cities and I had fun just exploring, but the other thing I wanted to do was see a Cubs game. I used to be a big baseball fan when I was younger. I grew up in Kansas City back when the Royals were actually good. I remember celebrating the Royals’ one and only World Series win (probably ever). And even though the Royals have sucked for a quarter of a century I still enjoy seeing Major League Baseball in person.
Monday I was at work until about 4:30. I took a cab back to my apartment. I decided to try to get into a Cubs game so I hopped online to the Cubs’ official site. To my amazement I found one seat directly behind home plate, 13th row. Sure it was expensive but it was the 13th row! I quickly bought the ticket and raced to the business center of the hotel. After fumbling with their printer I was finally able to get the ticket to print. I rushed out front and hailed a cab to Wrigley Field.
The cab took me along the waterfront. People were riding bikes and flying kites. The traffic wasn’t even too bad so we reached Wrigley Field fairly quickly. I had lots of time to sightsee and take pictures.
After walking around the stadium I went through the turn styles and got my David DeJesus bobblehead. I picked a random night and actually got a bobblehead night! I bought a hoodie and some other souvenirs, then got a huge slice of Chicago style pizza and an Old Style beer. The pizza must have been at least 3000 calories and was a bit doughy for my tastes but it hit the spot.
Then I went to take my seat, which was a delight. The usher led me down, down and farther down the stadium until I was right behind home plate. The concrete in the aisles looked like children had laid it about 100 years ago. It was uneven and cracked but somehow seemed entirely appropriate.
The game was a pitchers’ duel between Travis Wood and the New York Mets’ Johan Santana. The Cubs scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth and those would hold up as the Cubs actually won 6-1. ESPN’s recap points out that Wood was really on that night. He seemed unbeatable and the crowd was really into the game. I was surprised that the win only improved the Cubs’ record to 25-48. They seemed like a much better team than that, at least on that night.
During the game I noticed that most of the other guys on my row were also single guys, not sitting there with family. I caught one with a speed gun. I started talking to the two guys on either side of me and it turned out they (and most of the other people on my row) were major league scouts. I won’t say which teams they scouted for. At one point they started talking to each other, over me, and were asking each other questions about some of the players while carefully trying to avoid giving away that they were scouts.
One of the scouts told me he’d spent the prior week scouting college teams in Ohio. Before that he was in Florida. I never thought about it much but apparently scouts travel quite a bit.
The game was great, the trip was great, and the food was great. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. This is a big lesson I’ve learned in traveling and a philosophy I live by: when you’re in a new city, particularly for the first time, take at least one night to go enjoy the unique sights and sounds of that city. Go eat at one of their famous restaurants, even if you can’t put it on the company’s tab. Do something in that city that you can only do there. Believe me, it’s worth it.