There haven’t been more reasons to be excited about the Cubs this season than right now.
David Ross and Co. just wrapped up a successful 5-1 road trip against divisional foes St. Louis and Pittsburgh. They’ve secured a winning May, standing at 16-7 this month after a rough, sub-.500 April.
After being as low as last in the NL Central in April, they tied the Cardinals for first place with Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh — pending the outcome of St. Louis’ late game Thursday in Arizona.
To top it all off, they’ll play in front of their largest home crowd of the season Friday, the opener of a six-game homestand, as Wrigley Field shifts from 25 to 60 percent fan capacity.
“It's going to be significant,” Ross said. “Fans are what we've missed the most and have made us feel the most normal playing this game, at least from my vantage point.
“The energy and Wrigley rocking on a day game in-division should be a lot of fun.”
That energy was lost at Wrigley during the shortened, fan-less 2020 season due to COVID-19. It’s something players across the league missed, certainly players like Javy Báez, who draw from the energy fans bring.
At a quarter capacity, the Cubs have played home games in front of about 10,000 fans so far this season — about 11,000 during last week’s four-game series against the Nationals, with a section in the center field bleachers for fully vaccinated fans.
“Even the capacity we’ve had [so far] has been a huge difference from last year,” team president Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “At 60 percent, there will be a ton of buzz in there.”
Around 24,000 fans were inside Busch Stadium each game during last weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals series, the largest crowd the North Siders have played in front of since September 2019.
The series offered the Cubs a return to normalcy, a boost of energy that’s been missing for the last year or so.
“The atmosphere, as I remember it, is one of the best in baseball,” said Ross of playing in front of a big crowd at Wrigley. “I can't wait to get back to that.”
“It's just been making it more and more fun,” Kyle Hendricks said of the increasing capacities.
“We're going to love it and thrive off of it,” he added. “I know that all position players really thrive off that energy.”
Count Báez in that group.
“To have fans back and when they cheer for you, it's a great feeling,” the shortstop said. “Now that we're going to have even more, it’s going to be great for the city.”