Holy cow! Baseball is back in Wrigleyville.
The Cubs host the Milwaukee Brewers at 1:20 p.m. Thursday at Wrigley Field to open the 2023 season. Some new players are expected to make their Cubs debut, but fan favorites like catcher Willson Contreras are gone and outfielder Seiya Suzuki is on the injured list.
In addition to the fresh faces, there are many new items at the ballpark, including Small Cheval burgers in the bleachers and a new trophy room with the 2016 World Series hardware. Here’s what you need to know before heading to The Friendly Confines this season.
Are the Cubs going to be good? The Cubs made some major changes to the roster after last season’s lackluster performance. Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini and Jameson Taillon are among the most high-profile acquisitions. In fact, the Cubs signed more new players in the off-season than any other team in the league, according to Cubs Insider. However, it’s unclear if the shakeup will translate to a winning record. As Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Telander wrote, “We won’t know for sure until the games have reached a steady pace, say by mid-May.”
What are MLB’s new rules? Three major rule changes were approved during the off season to speed up games. The most noticeable being a pitch clock.
What’s new at Wrigley? Let’s start with food. In addition to Small Cheval burgers making their Wrigley debut in the bleachers, here are some other new concession items:
Loaded Greek fries with gyro meat, feta, olives, tomatoes, red onions and more. Served up in a souvenir helmet.
A split bratwurst filled with ground beef, cheddar, mustard and sauerkraut known as a “burger brat.”
Crispy chicken bao buns with Thai chili sauce, cucumber, arugula and carrot.
Crispy chicken torta with cabbage and cotija cheese.
Quesbirria with barbacoa, onions and cheese on a flour tortilla with ancho chili sauce.
On the beverage front, fans can now buy a 26 ounce beer in a souvenir bat cup. Coke products will also be served throughout the stadium starting this season. Finally, there’s a new outdoor space on the terrace level dubbed the “NUTRL Zone” featuring NUTRL Vodka Seltzer.
What can I bring with me? You can bring a bag to the ballpark, but it has to be small — no bigger than 16 x 16 x 8 inches. If you pack an umbrella, that also has to be small and can’t have metal tips. Fans can also bring sealed plastic bottles and food in disposable bags inside the stadium.
What can’t I bring? Backpacks (including the clear ones) are not allowed, although there are exceptions for medical bags and diaper bags. Some other things you’re going to want to leave at home include outside alcohol; aerosol sprays, including sunscreen; full-size baseball bats; and glass or metal food/drink containers.
How much does it cost to go to a game? You can find tickets as cheap as $9 on the team’s website for weekday games early in the season, and there are ways to save though promotional offers or weeknight deals.
Can I just tune in from home? To watch on TV, you’ll need the Marquee Sports Network, available in the Chicago region with Xfinity cable, DirectTV/DirecTV Stream and the Fubo streaming service. Other popular streaming services like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV do not carry Marquee. And to make it more complicated, some Friday night games will air on Apple TV+, which requires a subscription. You can also tune in to Cubs games on the radio on 670 AM The Score.
Getting to the ballpark: Taking public transportation is probably your best bet for getting to Wrigley. CTA bus #152 (Addison) and #22 (Clark) will both drop you off at the intersection of Clark and Addison, right by the famous marquee. Or, take the Red Line to the Addison station to exit closest to the stadium.
For fans who roll up to Wrigley on two wheels: There’s a free bike valet located on Addison, in the alley east of the main CTA Red Line entrance. It opens three hours before game time and closes one hour after a game ends. Pro tip: Take a picture of your valet ticket, in case you lose it inside the stadium.
Where to go outside the stadium: After you get your obligatory photo of the Wrigley Field sign, grab a pre-game bite or brew. There are the classics, like Murphy’s Bleachers, Cubby Bear and Sluggers. There’s also the row of Wrigleyville newcomers, like Big Star and Smoke Daddy. And, not only will they be inside the stadium, but Small Cheval is also opening a new location at the corner of Clark and Waveland. Then there’s Gallagher Way, the open-air space adjacent to Wrigley, which ticket holders can visit during the game and reenter the stadium.
Other events happening at Wrigley this summer: Dead & Company, Bruce Springsteen and Fall Out Boy are all on the stadium’s summer concert lineup. Check out the full list here.
FYI for first timers
If you’re going to Wrigley for the first time this summer, you can remember your trip to the ballpark with a personalized “first timer’s certificate” available in a booth on the main concourse directly behind home plate.
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @cmkueppers.