Hi Sox fans. I'm back to give a little bit of a visitor's perspective picture/summary post of my recent trip up to Chicago to see a couple parks, including the White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field. Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to my previous fanpost asking about questions of what to do/see/etc, and I really did appreciate everyone's contributions to helping me have a better idea of what I should aspire for.
I have some bad news for you guys, unfortunately. It's obviously no fault of anyone here, or anyone at the game itself, as I think Chicago certainly has some great baseball fans both on the north and south sides of town who packed both games I went to, but I think it's only for the best to be honest with what I think. But I really didn't like the Cell. Sure, it's the dreaded small sample size, since it was only one game, but that's typically been the case with all the other parks I've been to, but my experience at the Cell was without a doubt the worst opinion I've gotten from the 17 MLB parks I've tackled thusfar. But I'll get more into it, with full justification.
The following post contains quite a few images, so heaven forbid if you're still on a dial-up slow internet connection or anything.
Since this would be the only night game of the trip, I had the luxury of getting to roam around Chicago on a weekday afternoon, without the streets being full of people and other tourists. I took this opportunity to get some deep dish pizza at Gino's; I tried to come here on Saturday evening, but the line was two hours deep, and I ended up going to Al's Beef across the street; which was pretty good in its own right. But if I was in Chicago, I really wanted to try a deep dish pizza. Fortunately for me, arriving at 11:00 a.m. meant that there was no wait, and the restaurant was just opening up. As for the pizza itself, it was damned good, and the crust was the arguably the best I'd ever had. And it was a good time I arrived when I did, because the place was pretty packed by the time I was heading out.
Okay, I'm a huge Married... With Children nerd, and Buckingham Fountain was a must for a fanboy like me. The scariest thing is that apparently there is a huge subculture of MWC fans out there, who have gone even as far as to located the actual house that portrayed the Bundy family's home.
While walking around the loop, preparing to hop on the red line, I stumbled upon a place called "Epic Burger." Being the huge internet nerd that I am, I couldn't resist the calling of such a name, so I went inside, and ordered a junior, despite the fact that I wasn't even close to hungry. Unfortunately the name is a big let down, as the burger was far from "epic." It was kind of bland, and much too much like hippie food. In fact, the entire restaurant was a hipster hotspot, with everyone there wearing skinny jeans, studded belts, and having androgynous haircuts.
So I arrived to 35th/Sox, and was pleasantly surprised to see just how easy it was to get to the Cell. After two days of hot steamy daytime baseball, I was really looking forward to an evening game.
For a Monday night game against the hapless Mariners, I was pretty surprised at the turnout of the crowd. I legitimately tried to get lower-level tickets, pretty well in advance, but was more or less baffled by how impossible it was to get two tickets for a Monday night game against the M's. Especially from a park that sells Monday tickets at a reduced rate, making me think that they have to do it to actually get people to show up on a Monday.
It's like everywhere I looked, there were lines upon lines, upon lines. Not quite sure I'm digging this trafficking patterns.
And I certainly hope you like riding escalators, because there were certainly quite a ton of them at the Cell. One unnerving thing I was noticing around this time was that I'd walked around the park, and while traversing all these escalators, I'd seen very little indication that I was actually inside of a baseball park. Aside from the statues outside, and the banners that said "Home of the White Sox" there was little clue that this was a ballpark and not a gigantic mall. Maybe the name "the Cell" was a little too literal?
Hmm, this is where I began to see a bit of a red flag; ballpark restrictions to where patrons can go based on ticket status? Right about here, I was growing skeptical, but at least I could see a glimpse of ball field through the doors I was not allowed to enter.
And this, is the reason why I did not like the Cell. Because I was unable to get any tickets better than 500 level seats, I'm apparently completely disallowed from roaming around anywhere in the ballpark other than the upper deck. Not quite sure how often you guys get this from out-of-towners, but out of the 17 parks I've been to so far, the Cell is the only one with this kind of policy in place, which is a pretty asinine one to begin with. I just want to reiterate that this has no bearing on my opinion of you guys, or White Sox fans in general; on the contrary, because the Sox have such good fans is the reason why I couldn't get 100 level tickets, because they were all apparently sold out, but I would like to throw out there that I did try to get better tickets than the ones I got, and had I done so, this would certainly might not have been as big of an issue to me as it was.
But this sign sends me all sorts of bad signals - like that the Cell does not really care about their fans, and does not care that such restrictions probably has some monetary repercussions. Take for instance, at every ballpark I go to, I pick up a generic souvenir ball; white, plain, only team primary logo on it. Between the mini-team store, and two souvenir kiosks on the upper deck, none of them had the ball. I figured the primary team store on the 100 level would have one. Furthermore, the food selection in the upper decks is all the generic Aramark crap that's available at every other park in America; not interested. Imagine an older Sox fan, eventually has kids, and then wants to share his love of the Sox with his kids, and take them to the ballpark. With a wife and two kids, it's a little pricey, so he relegates to the 500 level, since a game can still be enjoyed from the upper decks. Arrives at the Cell early, to hopefully watch some BP, see Paul Konerko or Carlos Quentin stroke some BP homers. Maybe ask Mark Buerhle or John Danks for a baseball in the outfield. But then is denied entry at the gate because he didn't pay enough to be able to enjoy the leisurely privileges that pretty much all other parks allow.
Yeah, this was really a big deal to me, because it Dikembe Mutombo'd my desire to roam around the park and actually look around before the game even started.
So the rest of my pictures are kind of boring and probably nothing out of the ordinary for many of the locals, because quite frankly, I wasn't allowed to go anywhere else.
Obligatory field shot. Admittedly, I was in a fairly poor mood after the realization that I was pinned up in the upper deck, and had nothing but mean thoughts in my mind. But it's not necessarily fair to take out on you guys when it's clearly the park's management or team's influence who should be the ones to blame for such stupid regulations. I asked a few ushers, and even a guest relations guy why the rules? The only responses they could give me were that it had to do with the fact that it was a sold out game, and it was city ordinances; which I find to be an invalid excuse, since I've been to plenty of parks that have had sold out crowds, and still let patrons roam around freely, just so long as when they did decide to sit, it was in their designated ticketed seat. Either way, it didn't do me any good to argue, so I went to my seat, and relegated myself to people watching.
Apparently the guy from Twilight was also in attendance.
Aaaand, the obligatory Michael Jordan jersey, that I saw a surprising number of throughout the evening. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he never actually got called up to anywhere beyond Birmingham, right?
And by the way, this is the beautiful obstruction that was completely in my line of sight, should I dare to relax and lean back in my seat to watch the game. Good thing Juan Pierre was the one starting in LF, because if I were denied the opportunity to see Andruw Jones again, because of this obstruction, I would've lost my (crap). But seriously, isn't the Cell only like 19 years old? And they still have obstructions?
Here's a solitary firework that I was actually capable of photographing after Paul Konerko took Felix Hernandez deep.
Bob in Guest Relations on the plebeian deck told me that I should come back in the 7th inning, and he'd give me an elevator pass, so I could actually get down to the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous level. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that I was allowed passage to the first level, but this is a little excessive. I felt like I was back in high school, asking the teacher for a hall pass so I could go take a leak.
I WAS THERE. I walked around the first level, and the first thing I did was beeline for the team store. They didn't have the ball I was looking for either. (I eventually found them at one of the "official merchandise" trailers outside the park). And I have to note that since nobody's allowed on the first level, the Cell has the quietest, most docile first level in baseball. Interestingly enough, there's also no radio broadcast of the game playing anywhere in the hallways and concourses, which made for additional eerie silence.
And this was the last photo I took while at the Cell, again, just to prove that I was on the level of the privileged. By this time, Ramirez and Pierre had put the game well out of reach for the pitiful Mariners lineup, and my friend and I didn't really see any point in staying around a park that really didn't want our business. So in the 8th inning, I was out the door to beat the rush to the red line.
In conclusion, I hope I'm not pissing anyone off by saying it, but the Cell has been the worst park out of all my experiences thusfar. I think their idea to restrict patron access based on ticket cost is an absolutely horrendous one, a cardinal sin, and completely misses the entire point of the ballpark experience. Again, I would like to reiterate that my beef is definitely with the organization or the park itself, or whomever is the ones in charge of such a brilliant idea, but as for the White Sox fanbase, I was very impressed and in awe of everyone who packed the house for a Monday night game against a crappy Mariners team. But I think you guys deserve a park with better management, because my night was ruined the minute I saw a sign that said "YOU CANNOT."
Thanks for reading, and I hope there's nothing personal taken from this writeup.