We’re less than a week from the Chicago Cubs home opener at Wrigley Field. The grass is already in, and now we just wait:
Grass is in! pic.twitter.com/FGBDYb75Ws
— Wrigley Aerials (@WrigleyAerials) April 2, 2017
Fans coming to the restored ballpark will see many notable improvements and changes. The most noticeable one may be the increased seating along the baselines where the bullpens used to be. Where are the bullpens moving? Under the bleachers!
— Wrigley Aerials (@WrigleyAerials) April 4, 2017
Before we go on, let’s check out what Wrigley Field looked like prior to the bullpen move:
Note that the bullpens are where the Under Armour doors used to be, and we’re still a few days away from knowing exactly how it will look to protect the relief pitchers and allow egress from the bowels of the bleachers. Let’s do a bit of zooming in to one of the Under Armour doorways. Here’s the original picture:
I believe the Under Armour doors are the same size in both left and right field, but this was a good shot that gives us relative estimates of the original width that we can compare to the Wrigley Aerials close-ups. We can zoom in and see that the original doors are just a tad wider than one section of the wall basket. Paul Sullivan at the Tribune said the original opening was about 12 feet wide:
The original plan was to enlarge the outfield doors from 12-feet wide to 24 feet to make it easier for pitchers to watch the game from behind the bleachers walls. But the city’s landmark ordinance protects the ivy on the walls and Mayor Rahm Emanuel rejected the plan, forcing the Cubs to go with a smaller opening.
If you compare the zoomed in segment with the Wrigley Aerials picture, the new bullpen opening appears to be at least two basket sections wide, if not slightly more. I guess the Cubs decided to compromise at about 18 to 20 feet wide, which is enough to allow the relievers to see the action and to exit the pen, while keeping the Mayor happy. Most of us are like, “Who cares what Rahm Emanuel thinks?” But unfortunately, the Cubs need a few favors here or there, and Rahm still has some power even if a lot of Chicagoans aren’t big fans of him.
As in the article, players are going to have to get used to the bullpens out of sight. Fans will also have to adapt, and so will the city of Chicago. It will be interesting to see how the new digs will affect pitcher preparations and performance:
Former Cubs reliever Jason Motte referred to the Astros bullpen as a “dungeon” because it’s enclosed and it’s difficult to watch the game. Jake Arrieta was among the Cubs pitchers who preferred the status quo, saying in September that he enjoyed warming up on the field.
The only thing left to wonder is how the new doors will look, and how fans will be able to view who is currently warming up. My guess is that they will use mesh doors like you see in some outfield bullpens, and the relievers will be displayed on one of the many video boards either using a specific camera or just letting the fans know which names are throwing.