GOSHEN — Bryan Stephens loves going to ballparks, and he loves the Chicago Cubs. So it’s easy to see why the Goshen optometrist was a Cubs season ticket-holder for more than a decade.
Bryan, however, gave up those seats at Wrigley Field a few years ago.
As he and son Josh talked this past week about capping off their efforts to attend games at the ballparks of all 30 Major League Baseball teams, Bryan also shared some frustration stemming from the sale of the Cubs to Tom Ricketts in 2009.
“Ricketts kind of ran me off with the elevated prices,” Bryan said. “I sat a row behind the Bartman seats, so I’ve been to a lot of games there. Then they re-did that area, moved us back four or five rows, and upped the prices. And the Cubs started going in the can, so I just thought it would be easier to get seats on Stub Hub for lower prices and go when I want, and not hassle with trying to unload the ones we don’t want.”
That said, Bryan and Josh do remain Cubs fans, and Wrigley fans.
“I think more opposing fans travel to that park than any other park, except maybe Fenway,” Bryan said. “It has an appeal to fans across America.”
While Josh is just 17 and has experienced almost exclusively parks with modern amenities, he’s nonetheless partial to Wrigley and its antiquated features, never mind those narrow corridors and surrounding-traffic nightmares.
“I like the hand-operated scoreboard in center and I like the ivy on the walls,” Josh said.
Being Cubs fans, Bryan and Josh got an isolated laugh out of a mostly harrowing experience when their ballpark travels took them in 2006 to St. Louis, home of perhaps the Cubs’ most intense rival, the Cardinals.
Just before the start of that July 19 game, a severe, high-wind storm broke out in and around St. Louis without much warning. Seven tornadoes were reported in the area.
At the new Busch Stadium, which had just opened that same year, Bryan and Josh were part of a sellout crowd of 43,991 already packed into the park.
There were no casualties at the park — though nine deaths were reported elsewhere in the area — and the game between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves was ultimately played that night, but not before a violent scene had unfolded quickly.
“I told Josh, ’We’re probably at the strongest building in town,’” Bryan said, referring to the red brick that makes up Busch, ”but it was something. We were looking across at this construction site and as the twister started getting close, it immediately threw dust into everybody’s eyes. A lot of people got cut up a little bit. Ice cream carts were thrown. They had tractors on the tarps on the field to try to keep those from flying. It was a mess.”
Then came that moment of humor.
"I remember a Cubs fan walking by and seeing our Cubs hats,” Bryan said, “and he goes, ‘All these Cardinal fans bragging on their new park, and just look at this place, all these roofs falling in — this place is a dump.’”
The new Busch wasn’t really a dump, but for Bryan and Josh, it was no Wrigley, either.