CHICAGO - After months of winter and waiting, and labor strife, baseball is back in Chicago.
Thousands of fans filled Wrigley Field Thursday for the Cubs home opener.
It may have been cold, drizzly and overcast at Wrigley, but for thousands of Cubs fans — who cares? Baseball is back.
"Oh it’s wonderful. Rain, sleet or snow we’ll be here," one fan said.
It’s the first normal opening day at Wrigley in three years, with no fans in the stands in 2020 and a Covid cutback last year.
"It’s just great to see the ballpark filling up and the neighborhood coming alive. Couldn’t be more excited for the season," said Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.
It’s also a welcome relief for neighborhood bars and restaurants, filled with fans for the first time since 2019.
"It means looking forward to getting out of debt what the past two years really cost us. It was very expensive. And the expenses stayed the same with no money. That’s the problem," said Joe Spagnoli, owner of Yakzies Bar.
Four Cubs Hall of Famers threw out the first pitch, including Fergie Jenkins.
"No [opening day never gets old]. I think I had five or six here as a Cub. Maybe more. The first one was 1967, I beat the Phillies, the team that traded me," Jenkins said.
And there was a nod to the war in Ukraine as a choir sang the Ukrainian national anthem before the first pitch, with Ukrainian flags waving over Clark and Addison.
"I am Ukrainian and a lifelong Cubs fan. So this means everything to me. That the Cubs can show the support to Ukraine and the Ukrainian community means so much to me and my family," said Christina Ofisher.
For the first time in years, the opener was not a sellout, perhaps because of the weather and because of lingering resentments over the off-season lockout.
But in the end, with the Cubs beating the Brewers, fans are ready to believe once again.
"There’s always next year right? It’s this year, 2022. Opening day right here, right now. Starts today, I’m telling you," one fan said.