CHICAGO — As the cranes and trucks hummed just beyond the chain-link fence along Waveland Avenue, Erika Pflederer stopped to take it all in.
She could see the exposed back of Wrigley Field’s brick outfield wall and the grandstand seats with the bleachers torn out. In the transformation of the famous ballpark she sees a change for the better for the Chicago Cubs, too.
“I think it’s insanely exciting,” says Pflederer, a longtime Cubs fan. “It finally feels like we’re on the verge of really trying to accomplish (something big). We’ve all said maybe someday, maybe next year. It feels like we’re finally on the verge or really making it happen.”
It’s not just Cubs fans who are thinking big. So are the White Sox faithful.
North Side and South Side, there’s a big baseball buzz in Chicago. Both teams have made sweeping changes after 73-win seasons and sent enthusiasm soaring.
The Cubs brought in one of the game’s best managers in Joe Maddon in October and landed top starter Jon Lester with a six-year, $155 million deal during baseball’s winter meetings this month. In the process they made it clear that they are serious about bringing home a championship.
The White Sox, not to be outdone, added a front-line starter who grew up rooting for them in Jeff Samardzija and closer David Robertson to a pitching staff that already includes All-Star Chris Sale. They gave their lineup a boost, too, bringing in Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche to help support A.L. Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu.
“I loved every move they have made this offseason,” said Craig Coleman of Chicago, a White Sox fan since the late 1970s.
There’s hope that his favorite team is poised to make a move after enduring 188 losses the past two years and that the Cubs are ready to put five straight losing seasons behind them, not to mention a certain title drought.
The last time they won it all in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. But with the revamped roster and Wrigley Field finally getting its makeover after years of wrangling with the city and neighboring rooftop owners, the team’s fans might have to do a double take once the baseball caps replace the hard hats.
Besides the different faces on the field, they will see new, expanded bleacher sections in left and right field along with video boards and outfield signs. It’s the first phase of a four-year, $575 million overhaul.
The moves made by the two baseball teams could not have come at a better time for Chicago fans. After all, the NFL’s Bears are in a complete meltdown even if the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks are not.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who has been busy since he was hired in October 2011. “Chicago baseball hasn’t been what it should be the last few years and with both teams taking a big step forward this winter, it only benefits Chicago baseball fans.”
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