Minor league teams play at Wrigley

July 29, 2008 8:34:41 PM PDT
The Peoria Chiefs took on the Kane County Cougars at Wrigley Field Tuesday, in the first minor league game ever played at the North Side ball park. Last week, the Chiefs made news with an ugly, bench-clearing brawl.

The Chiefs are the Cubs' Class A affiliate and will be dealing with the repercussions from that fight for some time to come. But in the meantime, they were very excited to be at Wrigley and expected more than 30,000 fans to be inside the ballpark Tuesday night. And that is by far the most that any of them have ever played in front of, except for their manager, Ryne Sandberg.

Batting practice at Wrigley Field, for most of the players, has been a dream since Little League. And even though they're professional baseball players, it is a long way from Class A ball in Peoria to the big leagues at Wrigley.

"This is something new, something fun, something exciting, something you'll never forget for the rest of your life," said Chiefs' pitcher Jake Muyco.

The Peoria Chiefs have the advantage of having a manager who knows his way around the place. Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg says he made sure the players saw his retired number flying on the right field foul pole. But despite all the games he's played there, Sandberg says he's a little nervous to be back.

"Well, you know what? I woke up as if it was game day, opening day, first game of the playoffs. All those similar feelings - that's how I woke up this morning," he said.

"Hall of Fame player, Cub legend, he just gets down and gets to work every day, helps his players, coaches them, gives them advice on and off the field," said Cubs' general manager Jim Hendry.

It was the first-ever minor league game at Wrigley Field, and that means some of the traditional minor league promotions, like t-shirt tosses between the innings. But the fans know the big attraction - Sandberg.

Many of the Peoria players were just glad to attract positive attention after a brawl over the weekend they were involved with against a team from Dayton. Several players were injured. And one faces criminal charges for throwing a ball at a fan. Sandberg was out of town at the Hall of Fame and missed the game. But he says he has talked to his players about it.

"The whole organization and maybe a lot of the other organizations will take note of this and maybe remind the guys what you can and can't do in situations like that because we're talking about kids here that are 18 to 22 years old," Sandberg

Aside from the brawl, Sandberg says he is enjoying himself as a manager and admitted that he's definitely interested in returning to Wrigley as manager of the Cubs one day.

Minor league baseball at Wrigley also has minor league prices. Tickets ranged from $5 to $15. And there were still some available prior to game time.

The game was tied in the sixth inning when a rain delay halted play.


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