The Wrigley Field Experience: A Player’s Perspective


By: Brison Celek-September 16, 2008

celek-running.jpgIt seems to me that every kid when growing up wants to be something amazing, like be a professional athlete, life-saving doctor, or something big like an astronaut. Well, for me it was and still is, wanting to become a professional baseball player. There is always talk on our Diamond Devils team and among most baseball players about how cool it would be to play in a pro stadium, and is the field really that nice? Or is it just like any nice ballpark but with a lot bigger fan area surrounding it?

Well, this past weekend of September 6-7, I found out first hand what one of the most storied ballparks was like to play on and be in. Yes, is the answer to all those questions about whether or not the field is really that nice and is it better than any other ballpark in the country. It was an awesome experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

My Wrigley experience started long before we actually got to step foot onto the field as a team. While our Diamond Devils 17U team was playing in Atlanta for the Perfect Game Wood Bat World Series in July, which we won, Coach John Rhodes explained to us one night after we had been rained out for the day that he had received an invitation to play at Wrigley Field with his 18U team in the fall. As that chance might be a once in a lifetime thing, we all agreed to accept the invite and eventually go to Chicago to play in one of the most historic ballparks ever.

As the fall season started for our 18-year old team, we were all anticipating the second weekend in September to fly to Chicago and play. As luck would have it, Mother Nature gave all of us players from Charleston a good scare by sending Hurricane Hanna towards our city and threaten our departure. But Coach Rhodes was not having any of that he got in contact with our parents and informed them of an earlier flight on Friday the 5th so we didn’t get stuck in Charleston after the airport closed at 2:00 p.m. in preparation for the storm. After all the stress of the storm, we all boarded the plane and were Chicago bound for the weekend.

wrigley-celekbullpen.jpgUpon arriving in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to have my parents and sister make the trip with me and see me play. It was a big deal for me because my dad and I have put countless hours into the cage and drills to get me where I am today, and my two biggest fans, my mom and sister, all could watch me play on a pro field for the first time in my life.

That first night in the hotel was kind of surreal for me because in the morning, I was going to be getting up and playing on a Major League field where all the Cub greats have made there mark on baseball history. As we had been assigned the second game on Wrigley, our wake up call would come bright and early for all of us to get dressed and get to the stadium for pictures and self-tours.

Just walking into the stadium and seeing the ivy that has been the trademark of Wrigley for so long, and seeing the old time scoreboard and knowing what has taken place in this stadium gave me goose bumps and reminded me why my teammates and I play everyday.

celek-wrigleythrowing.jpgI don’t think I have ever been photographed more in a 4-hour time frame than during that Saturday morning. Our game was delayed for a while because of a late start to the game before ours but no one seemed to mind we were all just taking in the moment.

So when the preceding game ended our turn to take the field began, we all were amped up and ready to play. As for playing on the field, it was the best field I have ever played on so far in my life. Stepping into the batters box where all the Cub greats like Ernie Banks, Roger Hornsby and Mark Grace have batted before was an overwhelming experience during the first at bat. Just knowing that many Hall of Famers and other pros like Pete Rose, Albert Pujols and Johnny Bench hit in that very same rectangle I was standing in made me sort of nervous.

As the game went on, our coaching staff did a heck of a job getting everyone on the roster playing time and throwing seven different pitchers, and to top it off we came out on top with a 4-2 win and did it with everyone getting to play on Wrigley.

After our first game of the weekend was at Wrigley, we went and played at Northwestern University, which is in the Big Ten Conference, and went 3-0-1 for the weekend.

For me the weekend was probably one of the coolest life experiences I have ever been through because I got to play the sport I love the most on one of the most historic, famous ballparks in the world.

I would like to thank Coach John Rhodes for giving our team the opportunity to play at Wrigley and believing we could represent his program well enough to go play. I would also like to thank my parents for putting up with the countless hours of driving and hotel nights and weekends away from home for me to be able to play this great game at the level the Diamond Devils play at.

This was an experience I will never forget for the rest of my days and thank all who have gotten my teammates and I this far along in the game.