The blank green scoreboard overlooking the field. The sun glancing off the empty bleachers. The general lack of people in the area and complete lack of excitement in the neighborhood around the ballpark. It's almost like a September baseball game at Wrigley Field. (Hey-O!)
All kidding aside, all talk of Chicago's North side centers around the imminent arrival of Theo Epstein, the latest savior in a long line of saviors (Andy MacPhail, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella) to try and construct a champion at the corner of Clark and Addison. All this excitement about "When's he coming?" and "Please dear God tell me he's still coming" has many in this area in a tizzy. In short, the search for Theo Epstein in Wrigleyville or nearby Lincoln Park has taken on Bigfoot proportions.
Lifelong Cubs fan Noah Pinzur (sidebar -- since 2003, nearly every Cubs fan you meet claims to be a "lifelong Cubs fan" and not merely some bandwagoner who jumped on for the NLCS) told the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan two weeks ago that he was "99% sure" he spoke to Theo at a Starbucks in Lincoln Park last week. This sighting, much like the ones of Bigfoot and any number of UFOs, has not been confirmed. The Cubs are so far refusing comment and Epstein hasn't been photographed within 1,000 miles of Wrigley Field lately.
That being said, Noah Pinzur seemed sure that he saw Epstein in that coffee shop. And I just so happen to live in Lincoln Park, a mere 25 minute walk from the Friendly Confines. So, unbeknownst to Joe and the staff, I decided do some gumshoe work myself, putting on my detective hat and walking to Wrigley Field to see if I could find the man himself. Here is my report.
My first stop was the right field gate, which remains open year round, giving fans a chance to see inside of Wrigley Field. It really is one of the more glorious free views in all of sports. From my perch about 400 feet away from home plate, there were no indications that a press conference was imminent. With all the hoopla surrounding Theo Epstein's arrival in Chicago these days, one would expect buntings hung on the upper deck, the seats to be filled, and a giant podium to be erected at the pitcher's mound for the Front Office Phenom to address the adoring masses, much like Paul McCartney did from a stage in center field over the summer.
Alas, no podium, no bunting, no adoring masses. Just a ballpark in hibernation. But my detective work did not stop there.
Is this it? Is this Theo Epstein? Or perhaps a statue of Theo Epstein, which is certainly being lovingly handcrafted out of the finest bronze as we speak?
Nope. It is a statue but this statue is of the late Ron Santo, the beloved third baseman turned broadcaster who is immortalized forever throwing a ball towards the 7-11 directly across Addison Street. I like to think he got the customer that he was trying to throw out. Ronnie was a hell of a defender in his day, but I digress. While it's always good seeing Ronnie, that was not my quest. Theo Epstein is not a statue of Ron Santo and a statue of Ron Santo is not Theo Epstein. I must move on.
Perhaps the right field upper deck directly above the infamous Bartman seat. Could Theo have gotten wind of the rogue blogger who was looking for him, hoping to break news of his arrival in Chicago before anyone else?
Turns out no, Theo Epstein was not in fact hiding out in the upper deck at Wrigley Field, nor does he likely have any clue who I am. Not that I can blame him. He gets paid to build baseball teams that make grown men cry. I get paid to build sentences that don't make my parents do the same. Thwarted in my quest up until now, I had one last stop before giving up my investigation and returning to my tiny apartment nearby.
The media parking lot. Surely if Theo were here, he'd have parked his spaceship or chariot or whatever it is human oracles drive around in out here, right? And surely Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmyer, and all the other beat writers would be here as well, lest some obscure blogger beat them to the punch on the biggest story of the year.
Alas, still nothing. No Epstein, no Sullivan, no Wittenmyer, just an empty recycling bin and a whole lot of sunlight. I failed in my quest to find Theo Epstein at Wrigley Field on a Saturday morning when everyone else was sleeping or getting ready to watch college football and not playing some sort of human Where's Waldo? game for their own amusement. Perhaps this gumshoe was just sniffing in the wrong places -- Noah Pinzur said he saw and spoke with Theo Epstein at a Starbucks. I did not stop at any Starbucks or even the McDonald's across the street because...well when it comes to coffee, I'm more of a Dunkin' Donuts guy myself, and given that he's leaving the capital of Dunkin' Donuts Nation, I was skeptical that Epstein had a desire to sip some of Boston's finest after drinking it his whole life.
As it stands, we're likely not going to see Theo in or around Wrigley Field until after the World Series is over with given the two teams' inability to agree on a compensation package. But that's not doing anything to dampen the enthusiasm around Chicago's North side. Because as I mentioned last week, if there's anything that sells around Wrigley Field, it's hope.