You know how annoyed we get when there’s a threat of rain before a Mets game? I come in from the city, so it’s not that big of a deal for me to head out to Queens on a game night, and it gets called. But I mean, some people come in form Jersey, or from a long distance otherwise, have to pay tolls, parking, gas, etc. And IF ONLY the Mets were to call the game before people started to head out…it would make our lives easier, right?
Well take that, and imagine FLYING to a game that ended up being called for bad weather.
Yup, that happened to us.
Hi. My name is Taryn “the Coop” Cooper, and I am the travel reporter for the Stache. My husband (Ed Leyro from Studious Metsimus) and I decided that we wanted to see both Chicago stadiums and imagine our luck that the Mets were visiting Milwaukee, a mere 90 miles away from Chicago proper, the day before the White Sox were playing Detroit in the South Side of Chicago, and we could catch a game at Wrigley Field before we caught our late flight back Saturday night.
Simply put…We. Love. Baseball. Trips. So this was not just a no-brainer, but a yes-brainer. The trip had to be done.
To give you some background, I first visited Milwaukee and Chicago National League stadiums in 2007. The verdict then was undecided for Milwaukee…but like most who visit I loved the ballpark on the North Side of town.
But I hadn’t been to the South Side yet.
The South Side of Chicago has a reputation of being blue collar, gritty and less glamorous than their North Side neighbors are reputed to be. Plus going in, I had conflicting reports about the stadium, the atmosphere and most importantly the cuisine. I mean, besides going to visit a stadium and checking out the atmosphere, you HAVE to check out the local cuisine served up there. Some people told me it was great, others told me nondescript. I won’t say it was either, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.
So we hopped on the red line from the area known as “The Loop” in downtown Chicago, and headed south to what’s known as the “Sox” stop. Now, being from New York City, I have a little bit of a keen sense of what I care to expect from a mass transit option. I won’t say it was bad, but it wasn’t necessarily great either. But you know how the MTA has the “super express” after each night or weekend game on the 7 train? Seems like Chicago Transit Authority could learn a little bit from their expedited trains.
U.S. Cellular Field is not that far of a walk from the train. The area around the stadium was what took me by surprise. Yes, it does have an industrial feel to it (if you’ve been to the park on the North Side of the city, it’s basically part of the culture of the neighborhood, complete with brownstones with rooftop decks able to seat hundreds during a game), but think of CitiField and the area around it. There’s NOTHING there. Yet, the area around “The Cell” at least makes an attempt to make a pregame culture a bit easier to attain.
There were bars and even shops outside of the stadium proper that fans and other spectators could congregate and watch a game.
I was a little amazed by the atmosphere surrounding the stadium. I wasn’t quite expecting it, but I guess that’s a good thing. I guess I was expecting maybe a little more of a desolate area like the one that surrounds CitiField, where fans have to provide their own entertainment in the forms of tailgating.
What I didn’t expect also was the celebration of even the most minute detail of White Sox history. Maybe not 1919 (do a Google search on it if you don’t know to what I am referring), but different parts of White Sox history.
See, right behind me in the picture to the left is a list of the years the White Sox won World Championships. Mets fans can identify with Sox fans to a degree because of the idea of “second team” in this town. Yet, this season, the Sox are a little more successful than the Cubs, and even have won a World Series in this century, something the Cubs have not! To the right is my husband and our stuffed animal correspondent, Joey, and a pic with a Harold Baines “monument.” I have to say, I liked the nod to players in the past.
We had seats in the Upper Deck part of the park. Unlike most stadiums, if you do not have tickets to the field level or below, you cannot gain access to these parts. This surprised the heck out of me because at the very least, I’ve been able to at least walk around the lower levels (especially since it seems the better food and beverage are available in these areas). But all was not lost, as we were able to get a bit of the culture of the stadium in the upper deck too.
As an example, the walls are plastered with pictures from the past, celebrating their history. Again, to the minute detail. As an example, Tom Seaver, some guy we’ve heard of at least once or twice in Mets folklore, won his 300th game wearing a White Sox uniform. They had some of those pictures celebrating that feat. Another picture was of the 1976 Sox wearing their uniforms consisting of shorts stacking crates of beer at Comiskey Park, the old home of the Sox.
Being in Chicago, two types of cuisine usually pop up: sausage or deep dish pizza. Surprisingly, in my time in the Windy City, I had neither. Can’t say I’m a huge Polish sausage fan, or bratwurst (blech) for that matter. And hey, I’m a Jersey girl with some serious pizza issues. But if I was going to try either, it certainly would not be at a ballpark. But after careful consideration, it seemed like the nacho and burrito bar was the way to go.
So the picture doesn’t look nearly as tasty as the basket actually was. LOTS of chips covered with pulled spicy chicken, hot salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole. Of course, you can make it tailored to order. Hubby opted for the burrito which I would not suggest as it was very messy (greasy and leaked ALL over the place).
I also give the Cell some high marks for having picnic tables inside the concourse. This helped a great bit while we waited out a rain delay this evening.
In San Francisco’s AT&T Park, I loved that they had vendors trolling the stands with backpacks of Ghirardelli hot chocolate for sale. In Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, they had vendors with STRAWBERRY MARGARITAS FOR SALE. FOR LESS THAN SEVEN DOLLARS.
I mentioned there was a rain delay. So I was best friends with the margarita vendor in that time. Ultimately, this game ended being postponed till a date that we were no longer in town. So we didn’t get to see a game at the park, but got to see enough of the park that we would like to go back for a game in the future. While we waited, Ed was able to get some pics of the actual field, tarp and all!
So we traveled all the way to Chicago to attend a rained out game. What’s more: it was a Justin Verlander start for the Detroit Tigers and Chris Sale was starting for the Sox. We were excited at the prospect of seeing Robin Ventura managing the team, and seeing Miguel Cabrera compete for the Triple Crown he ultimately won. Alas it was not meant to be. I suppose on the flip side, it only took them about an hour after the game was to start that they called it.
Understanding what it’s like to be considered a “second team” in a two team town, and identifying with the grittier part of town, I am really looking forward to attending a game at U.S. Cellular Field in the near future. The Mets will be visiting in June 2013, so perhaps I’ll get two wishes of seeing a game there, and seeing the Mets play there.