The last time Cubs outfielder Joc Pederson played at Wrigley Field with full capacity allowed, the fans were rooting against him.
The former Dodger had two plate appearances when his team came to town in 2019 and didn’t get on base, to the Cubs fans’ delight. But on Friday, when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Cardinals, the home team is approved to host 100 percent capacity at Wrigley Field for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Can't wait,” said Pederson, who signed with the Cubs this offseason. “I've only been on the other side of full sold-out Wrigley Field, and it's rowdy. So, I'm excited to be on this side. It's going to be quite the event.”
Pederson, despite being one of the shortest tenured Cubs, would know. He saw Wrigley Field in the 2016 and 2017 playoffs through an opponent’s eyes. This season, he’s experienced the energy in the ballpark at 60 percent capacity.
“It's going to be rockin’,” Pederson said.
After playing in front of empty stands last year, the Cubs opened the season approved for 25 percent capacity at Wrigley Field. The city upped that limit to 60 percent two weeks ago.
Toward the end of the last homestand, after a close win over the Padres, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo complimented the 60-percent-capacity crowd’s enthusiasm.
“Seems like it's 100 percent,” he said.
So, what will 100 percent feel like?
“I don't think it can be overstated how excited we are to get back to a packed house and play in front of that many fans at that beautiful ballpark,” Cubs manager David Ross said Wednesday. “It's a special place, and we don't take that for granted.”
Wrigley Field’s shift to 100 percent capacity comes in tandem with Chicago and Illinois’ transition to Phase 5 of the reopening plan, as the both continue to report a decrease in COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, the prior week’s percent positivity rate in Chicago was under 2 percent.
On Friday, the city and state are set to lift limitations on the size of gatherings. Conventions and festivals can return.
Wrigley Field will continue touchless entry screening, mobile tickets and cashless concessions. But pod seating will no longer be in place. Gates will open two hours before first pitch.
“Weekend at Wrigley, hopefully the weather's nice, and full capacity,” Ross said with a smile, “that should say it all if you know anything about being in Chicago during the summer and going to a Cubs game.”