Cubs fans get emotional reflecting on baseball’s most historic stadium at Opening Day 2022

On April 20, 1916, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 in 11 innings. It was the first game ever played in what would soon after become Wrigley Field. 

Winning certainly didn’t always follow. Instead, intense generational fandom fueled by unrelenting loyalty, unmatched devotion, and profound spirit, came to embody the stadium with a character unique to any other venue in sports. 

Over a century has passed since the original ‘Opening Day.’ While a lot has changed over the years, the aura surrounding Wrigley Field was ripe as ever for 2022’s rendition. 

Sounds of gleeful anticipation mixed with the chiming organ rung. The smells of fresh air, hot dogs, peanuts and beer permeated the ballpark.   

Thursday, with temperatures in the lower 40s and mostly cloudy conditions, the Chicago Cubs debuted their 2022 season by defeating their visiting rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-4, at a semi-packed Wrigley Field. 

Before the game, fans from all over were eager to add another memory to their long collection of Wrigley lore. The present moment mixed with powerful memories sunk in. 

One pair of friends, Bob Wilczynski, 53, and Brian Farber, 48, drove three hours from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to experience their first Cubs Opening Day. They said the Wrigley Field environment always makes traveling to home games worthwhile. 

“A ballpark in the middle of a neighborhood. It’s incredible,” Wilczynski said. “You can feel like you are going back in time at a place that still evokes emotion.” 

Being back at Wrigley Field made him reminisce about his very first experience there and the Cubs fandom that runs deep through his family’s lineage.  

“The first time I ever came here it was very emotional walking up the porthole and seeing the green come into play with my grandfather,” Wilczynksi said. “To see the thing, I watched on television my whole life for the first time was incredible. It was very emotional later in life to share a similar moment with my child. It was like passing a torch from generation to generation.”

While Wilczynski watches every televised game and attends roughly a dozen Cubs games per year, Farber, who didn’t inherit Cubs fandom from his family, attends fewer and doesn’t catch every game. However, that’s no slight to his deep-felt connection to Wrigley Field.

“Most of my fondest memories are being in the bleachers with 20 or 30 of my friends,” Farber said. “When the team would win and you are singing ‘Go Cubs Go.’ Arms all around each other. Some of my favorite pictures of me and my friends are sitting in this ballpark.” 

Kathleen Holt, a 66-year-old Army veteran who works as a therapist in Dallas, Texas, knows a lot about dealing with emotions. 

As a die-hard Cubs fan, she drove for two days, all the way from Dallas, to come to Thursday’s Opening Day, though she’s been to a dozen before. 

She describes Wrigley Field as having a therapeutic energy that can be connected to senses. She uses the emotions she gets when walking into a Cubs game as an example to help her patients connect their own experiences in visualization therapy, which is supposed to act as a meditative anxiety relief.

“You have to use your senses,” Holt said. “I always describe getting on the main train and then getting off to get on the subway. Then I see all the people in their Cubs gear and I walk in and smell the hot dogs and relish. I hear the fans cheering.” 

Many Cubs fans draw vivid connections between Wrigley Field and childhood memories. However, sisters Patty Patrick and Nancy Phillips take it a step further, viewing it as a way of life. 

They grew up in a family of nine when money was tight. Now both in their 60s, Patrick who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and Phillips who lives in Springfield, Illinois have been going to ‘Opening Day’ games for 20 years together.

“The first Cubs game I ever went to I was five years old and I sat in the upper deck with a group from the plumber’s union my grandpa belonged to,” Patrick said. “After that moment I was hooked for life.” 

Phillips remembers rummaging around in the outfield looking for unique ways to support the team. 

“I remember as a child sitting out in the far-right field seats,” Phillips said. “They had cheaper chain-linked fencing at the time and we would run around looking for cups to take and stick in the fence to spell ‘Go Cubs’ as much as we could.” 

They say the “snuggly” and “friendly” confines of Wrigley Field make it special. They also say the close distance to the field alongside the loyalty of the fanbase through difficult losing seasons make the park and the people unique to other teams across America. 

They call it the ‘don’t sweat the little stuff’ attitude, which they learned as Cubs fans and throughout life. 

“You learn loyalty from being a Cubs fan,” Patrick said. “You know things can suck but you stick with it. You stick with the Cubs even when they suck. If you apply that to life, you’ll get through it, not sweat the small stuff, and go on.” 

After a century of wear and tear, Cubs fans are not only loyal to their team, but to their ballpark as well. Through all its changes and renovations, the magic of Wrigley Field is still alive and transcending another Opening Day.