“It feels different” seems to be a popular refrain around Wrigley Field these days. So much so, I feel as if someone should trademark it, put it on a t-shirt, slap it on a bumper sticker and start cashing some checks. [Brett: I’m on it.]
After a 12-day stretch that saw the Cubs split against the arch-rival Cardinals, win a road series against a healthy Rockies team and a home series against a potentially competitive Reds squad, no day exemplified “It feels different” more than Friday afternoon.
It truly was Kris Bryant Day.
The buzz was palpable from the moment I stepped to the gate under the marquee where a crowd anxiously standing at the gates to open cheered when they opened.
This was no ordinary 1:20 p.m. Friday afternoon start.
Fans stood and watched all four of Bryant’s at bats. It was something I hadn’t experienced since the days when Sammy Sosa was blasting homers at a historic clip.
Bryant’s first at bat featured an odd mix of emotions I struggled to put a finger on.
There was joy surrounding Bryant’s arrival, obviously. But there was also a feeling of nervous anticipation that settled over the crowd before Bryant swung and missed at James Shields’ first offering. At the at bat’s conclusion, there was an odd sense of relief that came after Bryant whiffed at Shields’ third offering.
I mentioned to a fan sitting next to me: “Now that that’s over, we can play some real baseball here.”
I would compare it to the feel of a first kiss, in the sense that you’ve heard about it, you’ve seen it, then the nerves kick in, which is followed by you experiencing it and then moving on.
Cub fans have been hearing about Bryant since June 2013. They’ve seen the highlights online or at minor league ball parks. But everything changed when they experienced it live. I’d equate the feeling to how Chris Rock compares a first kiss to double-dutch.
Yet, Bryant’s debut was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the events of Kris Bryant Day.
There were three other empty at bats, including two strikeouts. There were dazzling defensive plays, as clearly his work over in the minors clearly paid off. There was Joe Maddon getting ejected. And seemingly lost was Jonathan Hererra getting in Shields’ head with his base running at third in something that looked something like when Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez stole home in The Sandlot.
The eye opener was the frustrated muttering of fans after Jorge Soler’s grounder ended the game. For the first time in a long time, a loss seemed to matter. There was no fall back to “This is all part of The Plan” as there would have been over the last three years. Instead, there was a sincere connection over the events that occurred at Wrigley Field that afternoon.
It just felt different.