Chicago White Sox – July 6, 2022
Whenever possible, I love to set up my baseball travel plans so that I have at least two days in every big league city I visit.
Not only does this strategy all but guarantee I’m able to see a game if there’s inclement weather during my visit, but it also gives me an occasional opportunity to meet up with friends I’ve met through baseball. This was the plan when I scheduled a visit to Chicago last summer. I intended to spend my first day at Guaranteed Rate Field the way I usually do — getting there ridiculously early, walking everywhere I possibly could and taking a ton of photos. (You can read about that memorable experience here.)
The plan for visit #2 was all about hanging out with my buddy Craig Wieczorkiewicz, a.k.a. The Midwest League Traveler. Craig and I have been Twitter friends for more than a decade, but we’d only attended one game together in the past — a fun visit to Miller Park (now known as American Family Field) in Milwaukee, back in 2018. Our plan to see a game together in Chicago came together a few weeks before I arrived, with Craig driving in from Wisconsin to hang out. (It’s worth noting that this post will be shorter than usual, given that I didn’t do much ballpark exploring. I still wanted to document the adventure, though, in part because I had another opportunity to eat a Chicago staple dish.)
My trip to Guaranteed Rate Field wasn’t nearly as long as Craig’s. As I’d done a day earlier, I walked a few blocks from my hotel near the Magnificent Mile to the CTA Red Line Grand Station, and then rode south to the Sox-35th Station, which is just a few minutes from the ballpark. Here’s a shot from 35th Street looking north, with the subway platform and the station itself visible on the right side:
After snapping that shot, I continued along 35th Street until I was looking at this:
That’s the ballpark on the left, a big souvenir store called Chicago Sports Depot on the right and a pedestrian bridge connecting the two.
There was still some time to kill before I was due to meet up with Craig, and since I’d done so much exploring a day earlier, there weren’t many new things to check out. Still, I was happy to just wander around the park and thankful to once again be attending live baseball after having to cancel so many trips in 2020 and 2021. I took another visit to the site of the Comiskey Park home plate, which I’d done a day earlier, and also walked through one of the parking lots and noticed a decent tailgating scene. I haven’t seen much tailgating at MLB games over the years. The most notable scene I’ve experienced was in Milwaukee. Is MLB tailgating a Midwest thing?
With the pleasant aroma of charcoal briquettes wafting through the air, I snapped this shot of the ballpark from the corner of the tailgating lot …
… and then crossed the street and browsed the White Sox starting lineup that was posted on a wall outside the park …
… before finding a place in the shade to sit and wait for Craig. He arrived a short time later, and we obviously had to snap a selfie to document the momentous occasion:
(Queue the “Reunited and it Feels So Good” music.)
It wasn’t too long until the gates opened, so we soon made our way in and headed to the outfield concourse. There was no batting practice taking place during this matinee game, but that wasn’t a big deal. We were simply happy to grab a spot and get caught up, all while we enjoyed a nice view of the ballpark:
Given that it was now after lunch hour, it wasn’t long until we decided to find something to eat. I’ve often found that a lot of fans grab food very shortly before first pitch. This means that if you get your meal soon after the gates open, you generally won’t have to deal with long lines. A day earlier, I’d had a Chicago-style hot dog — one of the main types of fare that comes to mind when I think of the Windy City. The other, beyond deep-dish pizza, is an Italian beef sandwich. I’d never had one of these sandwiches anywhere, and knew that it’d have to be my meal during my second game in Chicago. I’d eyed up a Buona Beef concession stand earlier, so just a few minutes after declaring to Craig that he would be the lone and fortunate witness to my first Italian beef, I was holding this hefty meal in my hand:
For those who are unacquainted, an Italian beef consists of a pile of thin slices of simmered roast beef, served “au jus,” on a roll. The meat is topped with either sweet peppers or giardiniera, which is made of pickled vegetables. My sandwich had an assortment of sweet peppers and spicy giardiniera, as well as some grated cheese because, hey, it’s just not a ballpark meal without some type of cheese.
This sandwich earns another entry in the “not very easy to eat but delicious” category, which seems to apply to a lot of what I eat at ballparks.
After we’d eaten, I snapped this rather green-looking shot from where we stood behind the batter’s eye to show the breakdown of the seating options at Guaranteed Rate Field:
As you might’ve noticed, it was very sunny on this day — something that became increasingly apparent as we sat in a pair of outfield seats a short time later for the start of the game. We spent two or three innings sitting in the full sun, before I had to play the “I don’t have a summer suntan yet, so I’ve gotta get into the shade before I look like a lobster” card. Craig was happy to oblige, so we returned to the outfield concourse, I snapped a quick shot from this spot …
… and then we headed toward the upper deck and one of its shaded rows.
On our way, we decided to grab something cold. If you know me, you know that my favorite ballpark sweet treat is any type of Italian ice/water ice. A stand on the 500 Level concourse was selling three different colors — any guesses about what color I chose? All three, of course!
We found some seats away from the crowd and that was where we spent most of the remainder of the game. As I said earlier, this ballpark visit wasn’t about exploring the park, but rather about a long-overdue opportunity to catch up with a friend. From our seats, we had a good view when Andrew Vaughn hit an eighth inning home run to knot the score at 8-8:
With extra innings looming, we opted to move back down to the 100 Level to see the end of the game. The end came in the 10th, thanks to a run-scoring, walk-off single by Chicago’s Leury Garcia:
In no rush to leave the park, we enjoyed the walk-off celebration and then slowly made our way through the concourse and back outside, where we hung out and continued to catch up near the old Comiskey Park home plate. Eventually, it was time for Craig to begin his drive back to Wisconsin, and time for me to hop back on the subway and return downtown to my hotel — after making a quick stop at Shake Shack, because I obviously hadn’t eaten enough over the last few hours.
Before long, I’d be on the subway to O’Hare International Airport to continue the next phase of my baseball trip.