Allstate Journal

For Tom Ricketts and the Cubs, ‘now is the time’

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts pulls out of the parking lot in his Cadillac, stops at the entrance, and tells the security guard to keep a lookout for his brother. “I don’t know what he’s driving,” Ricketts says of his younger brother, Todd, “but if he’s got a huge neck tattoo, that’s not him.”

USP MLB: CHICAGO CUBS-WORKOUT S [BBA OR BBN] USA AZRicketts, 51, laughs, takes a right-hand turn, and with Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart playing softly in the background, heads up the road to Portillo’s – a Chicagoland hot dog joint. It’s just a mile down the street from the Cubs’ gorgeous spring-training ballpark where every game has been a sellout this spring. He pulls into the crowded lot, and with the driver’s window down, is recognized by three Cubs fans before he can even find a parking spot. Two scream, “Go Cubs.” The other yells, “This is our year.’’

No one brings up Kris Bryant, the hotshot rookie who tore up the Cactus League, hitting .425 with nine home runs, who was demoted Monday. If the fans are angry or upset that Bryant is starting the year in Iowa and not Chicago, they have yet to vent. The way the Cubs see it, they’re trading just three or four weeks in April for an entire season in 2021. And, sorry, no matter how hard he tries, agent Scott Boras won’t intimidate Ricketts, accusing him of sacrificing a potential playoff berth to save dollars.

The Cubs will unveil the team that has everyone in baseball talking Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. This young and talented team, full of vigor and confidence, realizes all of the attention will be on their performance. No longer can fans be distracted by the charm of Wrigley Field, not with orange fencing around the ballpark, construction cranes in the outfield, and the bleachers being out of commission until June.

Yes, the same bleachers where Ricketts actually met his wife, Cecilia, sitting in the front row of the center-field bleachers, and passing 16 beers to his friends and family. He and Cecilia wound up talking between beers, and here they are today, married for 20 years with five kids. Now, instead of bleachers for the first six weeks, there will nothing but vast emptiness, with only construction workers in hard hats sitting in the outfield.

It’s hardly what Ricketts and the Cubs had in mind when they started their $575 million renovation project, but with the harsh Chicago winter, and the Wrigleyville neighbors rejecting their bid to work around the clock, the ballpark won’t be ready. It will be mid-May until the left field bleachers are done, and a month later before the center field and right-field bleachers are complete. Their first JumboTron, located in left field is scheduled to be ready by Saturday.