Walfish: Wrigley Field proves to be ‘Friendly Confines’ for Wildcats

Walfish: Wrigley Field proves to be Friendly Confines for Wildcats

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

I have never heard 4,197 people sound so loud.

The souls that braved the cold weather and Chicago winds to watch Northwestern beat Michigan 6-0 on Saturday were heard, even if it was difficult to see them among the green seats at Wrigley Field.

For a ballpark that holds more than 40,000 people, 4,197 is chump change and definitely made the stadium feel empty. However, the noise produced by these few fans was about the same level as a normal Cubs game at the Friendly Confines.

How did coach Paul Stevens describe the experience? Well, considering he said he wanted to be one of the players on the field, it is no surprise he was happy with the turnout Saturday.

“The amount of people, the yelling, the screaming, the energy, the enthusiasm — I don’t know if it gets any better than what I saw in the last few hours,” Stevens said. “I was absolutely mesmerized, and I know our guys were. What a tremendous thrill for them to be in this type of atmosphere. It was nothing like we’ve experienced before.”

The last sentence is exactly what NU was hoping for when it signed the partnership with the Cubs in February.

The real moneymaker for this partnership will be the five football games — with the potential for a lacrosse game next year against Notre Dame — to turn a profit. The other sports set to play on the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field were solely to gain some publicity. It worked Saturday, and my guess is it will work whenever the Cats decide to come back next.

What made Saturday so special at Wrigley was not the fact NU beat Michigan 6-0. It was not that many baseball players lived out their dreams by playing at majestic Wrigley Field. It wasn’t even that nearly 4,200 people showed up to cheer on the Cats. What made Saturday unique was the electricity that surrounded a game that at times did not feel any different from a normal game at Rocky Miller Park in Evanston.

Sure, the game was at Wrigley Field, and the ivy-covered outfield walls gave the game a different aura. However, the seventh through fourth innings were relatively boring. Both pitchers were able to get easy outs, and there were only two combined hits between the two schools in that stretch. It was just a mundane baseball game.

But throughout the entire game, the fans were on their feet and the electricity was palpable four stories up in the press box. When starting pitcher Luke Farrell had his perfect game broken up in the fifth inning, there was an audible groan from the purple contingent. When Farrell fanned Jack Sexton and Cole Martin to escape a sticky situation with runners on second and third, the fans were standing almost the entire time.

Stevens said he would love to have this sort of experience on campus, but it will be tough to match with only 600 fans able to sit at Rocky Miller Park. Regardless, the Wrigley experience showcased how much fun a baseball game can be when the fans are into it.

“I was a little fired up,” Farrell said about his 93 mph fastball to end the game. “It’s fun to pitch in front of big crowds.”