The White Sox narrowly missed the playoffs last season, and as hope springs eternal fans are eager to see if the South Siders can capitalize this year with their talented roster.
The Sox will start their season on the road before returning to Guaranteed Rate Field for their home opener at 2:10 p.m. Monday (game time was previously scheduled for 3:10 p.m.) when they take on the San Francisco Giants.
Despite the loss of slugger José Abreu, much of last year’s squad is returning to the field this season, including Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez and breakout pitcher Dylan Cease. But, there’s one notable new face: the team’s first-year manager, Pedro Grifol.
Whether you’re a lifelong fan or going to your first Sox game, here’s what you need to know from a new bag policy to new grub like elote corn dogs.
Are the Sox going to be good? After a disappointing, injury-riddled season, maybe it’s best not to jinx things. But at least one close watcher is expressing optimism for this season. MLB Network host Matt Vasgersian said recently that he thinks “it’s going to be markedly better than an 81-win team,” adding that he thinks Grifol’s arrival will mean good things for the Sox’s record this year.
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.
Can I bring a bag? The stadium has updated its bag policy. Starting this season, fans can bring a tote that’s up to 12 x 12 x 6 inches, but it must be clear — following other stadiums with similar policies. Non-clear bags must be 9 x 5 x 2 inches or smaller. No backpacks, plastic bags, briefcases, camera bags or drawstring bags are allowed in the stadium. There are exceptions for medical equipment bags and diaper bags.
What can I bring in the ballpark? Guests can bring in some outside food, as long as it’s in a clear food storage bag that’s no larger than a gallon. You can also bring up to one liter of water with you in a factory-sealed plastic bottle. On rainy days, umbrellas are OK to pack, but they must be small — no golf-size umbrellas. Umbrellas cannot be open at your seat while the game is in play.
What can’t I bring to the stadium? Outside soda, alcohol and glass bottles are all prohibited inside the ballpark.
What’s new on the menu at Guaranteed Rate Field? Get ready to chow down. The Sox have unveiled some serious new snacking options this season. Perhaps the showstopper is an impressive looking mangonada, with mango sorbet, fresh mangos, chamoy and chili powder. But if that doesn’t excite your tastebuds, here are some other highlights from the nearly 30 new food offerings this season:
Elote corn dog smothered in queso and topped with jalapenos, grilled corn, cilantro and cotija.
The “Belgian banger” is a hefty half-pound Polish sausage on a pretzel bun, topped with caramelized onions, cabbage slaw and bacon bits.
“The champagne of dogs” is a half-pound Vienna Beef footlong Frank. It’s served with relish and habanero mustard.
Hot honey chicken loaded fries, with bite-size popcorn chicken and hot honey BBQ sauce.
There’s also chorizo mac and cheese, a classic cheesesteak, garbanzo sandwich, build-your-own nachos and much more on the menu.
And, of course, there is no shortage of drink options. There’s new frozen alcoholic pops that range in flavors from margarita to strawberry and mango. Plus, the ballpark is a mecca for beer lovers, with more than 75 craft beers available from 50 breweries, six of which are new this season. The latest additions include Chicago-based breweries like Funkytown Brewery, On Tour Brewing Company and Pilot Project Brewing.
What’s it cost to see a game? Tickets to a game can be as low as $5 on the team’s website for early season games on weekdays.
Families can get special ticket prices on Sunday home games this season, with tickets starting at $10. And, your kids can run the bases after the game. Plus, there are some school and alumni offers to help save on costs.
And, the team has some promotional offers on special days, including a chance to snag a bucket hat, belt bag, Luis Robert Jr. or Eloy Jiménez bobbleheads and various jerseys. Details here.
Can I watch games from home? Sox games air on NBC Sports Chicago, but if you don’t have cable, you can also tune in with a Hulu + Live TV, FuboTV or YouTube TV subscription. Superfans can also check out the league’s streaming platform. You can also tune into games on the radio on WMVP 1000 AM.
What’s the best way to get to Guaranteed Rate Field? Public transportation will get you close by on game day. On the train, take the Red Line to the Sox/35th Street stop or the Green Line to the 35th/Bronzeville/IIT stop. You can also take Metra to the 35th Street “Lou” Jones station. There are also a number of bus routes that will take you to the stadium, depending on which direction you’re coming from. See details here.
If you do drive, it’s recommended you arrive early and it’s highly recommended you purchase a parking pass ahead of time, which range in price from $17 to $30. All parking lots open two hours ahead of game time.
Is tailgating allowed? Yes, and that’s one potential reason to drive, but keep in mind there are some rules. You can only have tents and tables set up in the reserved tailgating area; kegs are not allowed and only small grills are permitted. And there’s no tailgating after games. The parking lots close about an hour after games end.
What about the fireworks? There will be fireworks after every Friday home game, excluding April 14, July 28 and Aug. 25.
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @cmkueppers.