Willson Contreras lined an RBI single against Corbin Burnes to give the Chicago Cubs an early lead over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
The crowd cheered, but it was not one of those piped-in roars. Fans just beyond the ivy at Wrigley Field, up on the rooftops, were letting loose.
Although the Cubs were beaten 8-3, just seeing a game in person from high and far was a welcome diversion for Dave Barounis.
Photo: Matt Marton-USA TODAY
While major league ballparks are off limits to the general public, Wrigley Field is one of the few spots where people can look in on the action.
“It feels really like you’re getting back to normal to be able to go watch a baseball game,” said Barounis, a physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn. “It just feels like it’s a natural part of what we’d normally have for summer. What we’re all looking forward to is to kind of break the monotony that’s been the last several months. It feels like we’re getting back into the routine of things. It reminds us that things are going to get better, and better days are ahead.”
Little about the COVID-19 pandemic-delayed season is routine, with the start pushed back four months, the schedule slashed from 162 games to 60 and teams playing without spectators in the stands.
However, for fans looking to see major league baseball live, there are few options besides the rooftops along Waveland and Sheffield avenues.
Boston has the Bleacher Bar tucked under the center field seats at Fenway Park. San Francisco has the promenade alongside McCovey Cove.
Another possibility might have been the hotel at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, but with the Blue Jays barred by the Canadian government from playing at home because of concerns about the coronavirus, that is out.
In Chicago, tickets to the 16 rooftops come at a hefty price — about US$300 to US$440 compared with the usual US$150. They can seat at about 200 to 250, but a 20 percent capacity limit has them selling 40 to 50 per game.
The available tickets are going fast, with about 90 percent purchased, Cubs executive vice president of sales and marketing Colin Faulkner said.
Team ownership has 10 of the rooftop businesses and sells for one more. Some groups buy out a rooftop and distribute only a portion of those tickets to allow for more room to social distance.
“The demand was overwhelming,” Faulkner said.
Across Waveland Avenue, just beyond the left-field bleachers, Barounis was one of about 20 people on an outing with Advocate Healthcare. There were temperature checks at the entrance and reminders all around about social distancing, with some seats blocked off.
Food options are scaled down, most coming prepackaged, and served by staff instead of the usual buffet, but there are plenty of drinks as well as hand sanitizer. And the view is not bad, either.
The warning track from left to center is blocked by the bleachers, and the large video board cuts off deep center field, but most of the action is easy to see. And sounds that would normally be drowned out can be heard.
Cheers from the home dugout are audible. And the Cubs can hear the noise coming from the rooftops.
“I think the only thing I heard was the typical Ryan Braun boos” in Friday’s opener, manager David Ross said. “I think their own team booed him when he got announced yesterday; they want to make him feel right at home. He’s a pretty good sport about all that.”
In New York, the Atlanta Brave’s Adam Duvall drilled a solo shot to right field that hit a cardboard likeness of a puppy belonging to the New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil.
“Right off the pooch!” New York broadcaster Gary Cohen said.
Willow was one of three pretend dogs propped up in the first row behind the right-field wall for New York’s second game of the season.
The Braves won 5-3.
In other games on Saturday, it was:
‧ Red Sox 2, Orioles 7
‧ White Sox 10, Twins 3
‧ Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
‧ Rays 4, Blue Jays 1
‧ Phillies 7, Marlins 1
‧ Astros 7, Mariners 2
‧ Athletics 1, Angels 4
‧ Rangers 2, Rockies 3
‧ Dodgers 4, Giants 5
‧ Indians 2, Royals 3 (10i)
‧ Reds 4, Tigers 6
‧ Nationals 9, Yankees 2
‧ Padres 5, Diamondbacks 1
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