A group of people in Royals apparel emerged from underneath the left-field bleachers to a round of cheers from fans donned in royal blue Friday afternoon.
The cheers were probably more for the Royals players from the large contingent of Kansas City fans, but it still signified Dale Sveum's return to Wrigley Field.
Sveum — now the hitting coach for the Royals — is back at the "Friendly Confines" for the first time since being let go after the 2013 season. He lost 197 games across two seasons as Cubs manager, the hand-picked choice when Theo Epstein's front office took over the franchise.
In typical Sveum fashion, he shrugged off his return to Wrigley like it was no big deal.
"I've been on this [visting] side way more than [the home] side in my career, so it's the same," Sveum said before Friday's game. "I don't know if it's weird or not. It's good to see some of the guys and some of the players that I haven't seen since I left. I dunno; it's been a while now."
Sveum is a baseball lifer who played in the big leagues for 12 years before transitioning into a coach. He was part of the staff in Boston when the Red Sox reversed the curse and won the World Series in 2004.
Sveum spent six seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2006-11, making several trips a season to Wrigley Field. This is the first time he's been here since the renovations started and the new video boards went up in left and right field — "I don't know if they needed two of 'em," he laughed.
Sveum stood outside the visiting dugout on the first-base side, squinting through the sun and sweating a bit in the muggy weather. He admitted the ballpark could use some upgrades.
"The facilities are what they are, but I tell you what, when you step on this field, it's kinda like Fenway or old Yankee Stadium," Sveum said. "There's just a different feeling.
"If you can't get up and play in this place, no matter what the facilities are, you might not have a heartbeat. This is a special place. Especially days like this, as a hitter, when the wind's blowing out. It doesn't matter how little that clubhouse is."
It didn't take Sveum long to find a job after he was let go in Chicago, hooking up with the Royals before their classic run to the World Series last season.
Known as one of the top hitting minds in the game, Sveum talked a lot about how the game has changed, how pitching is at a premium and offense is way down across the board.
Epstein's front office saw this coming, stockpiling young power hitters throughout the system. Sveum saw some of these sluggers — the Kris Bryants and Jorge Solers — during his time with the Cubs and helped break down their swings on tape.
"You're dealing with guys over there that slug and obviously strike out a lot and can hit the ball a long way," Sveum said of the Cubs. "When they get 1,000 or 1,500 major-league at-bats under their belt, you're gonna have to deal with some serious power every day when you come to Wrigley or play the Cubs."
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Sveum didn't have any managerial jobs available to him when he left Chicago, but the 51-year-old coach admitted he would like to be back on the top step of the dugout someday, calling the shots again.
"Oh of course," he said. "That's not something you put on the backburner. It's obviously something that I enjoy doing. But I'm obviously not holding my breath.
"I see where things are going in the game and how people are getting hired. It's a little different than it was 10, 15 years ago. I'm happy doing what I'm doing.
"I still got a uniform on, so that's all I care about."