ST. LOUIS — Kyle Hendricks wasn’t the only part of Friday’s Cubs-Cardinals game that looked at least a step back toward a sense of normal for the teams.
Even amid an ongoing pandemic and “disappointing” vaccination rates among the Cubs and other teams, the Cubs’ first game in St. Louis since 2019 also featured their largest crowd of the year — 24,282 — and a palpable buzz that’s been missing from most ballparks for more than a year.
“I felt emotion when I stepped out, and it was a pretty crowded St. Louis stadium,” said Cubs manager David Ross after the Cubs turned a tie game through six innings into a 12-3 rout late.
“It definitely felt more like the norm of a baseball season with a pretty big crowd, a weekend series; they’re in first place; we’re in second,” he added. “It’s early still, but I had a little bit of emotion where it felt like a normal big, rivalry series in St. Louis.”
It didn’t hurt the emotions from the Cubs side to win the first meeting of the year to improve to 12-6 in May and close to two games behind the first-place Cards.
“It’s the loudest we’ve heard in a stadium in a while,” said Hendricks, the resurgent ace of the sixth-inning showdown against Yadi Molina with one out and the go-ahead run in scoring position. “It was really cool to feed off that energy.”
Hendricks got Molina on a popup to fire up the Cubs’ side of a bipartisan crowd.
“It’s felt more and more normal just having fans in general,” Hendricks said. “This is definitely the most normal it’s felt so far. It was awesome, just seeing everybody getting loud.
“You could feel the energy pulsing through the ballpark, and that’s what we love to play in.”
First-year Cubs left fielder Joc Pederson, who led off the game with a homer, seemed impressed with the road turnout of Cubs fans at a ballpark that filled its half-capacity limit.
“It really felt like it was sold out,” he said. “That was a good atmosphere. Super cool.”
When the Cubs return home next week, allowed capacity at Wrigley Field will increase from 25 percent to 60 percent.