Fans head to the stadium prior to the Chicago Cubs playing the Pittsburgh Pirates on opening day at Wrigley Field on April 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
Two strange sights were spotted at Wrigley Field on Monday as the Cubs beat the Diamondbacks: a flock of birds and a dearth of fans.
A flock of seagulls descended upon centerfield around the third inning, and didn't leave. Marlon Byrd had to make the game-ending catch among the large, white birds. He was good-natured about the birds, worrying that one would get hit.
"I was trying to get as low as possible, just in case (the ball hit a bird),” he said. “When you have stuff flying in front of you and you’re trying to catch a little ball, it is (distracting).”
The birds aren't going anywhere. With Wrigley's close proximity to Lake Michigan, endless supply of dropped peanuts and cracker jacks, and large, grassy area, the Cubs will likely just have to learn to deal with their feathered friends.
However, the lack of fans is a problem that will need to be dealt with.
Monday's attendance -- 26,296 tickets sold -- was the lowest since 2002. The weather was cold and cloudy, but it's April in Chicago. That sort of weather is the norm, and the Cubs haven't had a hard time drawing in fans in previous Aprils.
Kerry Wood, in his first season back with the Cubs, was surprised to see the empty seats.
"It's a little strange seeing empty seats," Wood said. "It's our job to change that."
Wood is acknowledging what might be a hard truth for the Cubs to face. For so long, Wrigley was considered a tourist attraction. The play on the field didn't matter because of the bleachers, the scoreboard and the beer. Fans would pack the place even if the team was terrible.
But that's not true any more. Fans are annoyed with the last few seasons of play, starting with the 2008 playoffs where the Cubs were swept out of the NLDS. The teams since then haven't lived up to expectations, and Cubs fans are fed up. They're letting management know that with the most effective weapon they have: their wallet.
Wrigley is a magical place filled with beer, bleachers, beautiful people and even birds. But instead of banking on the stadium drawing in fans, the Cubs should honor the field by winning.
Maggie Hendricks is freelance blogger who spends most of her timing writing witty Bears entries on Grizzly Detail.