By Fred Mitchell
6:44 PM CDT, April 5, 2012
The concept of sitting on a patio while watching a baseball game is an idea whose time has finally arrived inside Wrigley Field.
"It's a very nice view … it's just beautiful," Lee Maloof of Vernon Hills said of the Budweiser Patio Deck adjacent to the right-field bleachers, which made its debut during the Cubs' season opener Thursday.
"I love the view, it's not too close and it's not too far," added Sharon Maloof. "We haven't come to many Cubs games, so this is the best seat."
The annual ritual that is the home opener at Wrigley Field never fails to stir the emotions of Cubs fans.
Judy Schulberg from Des Plaines, didn't have a ticket to the opener, but wanted to enjoy the festivities around the ballpark Thursday.
"I will be back again on Monday for the game," she said. "But I just love coming down here and enjoying the celebration of opening day."
"I've been to the last seven (home openers), and before that I was at 10 of probably the previous 20," John Murray, 43, of Chicago, said. "I think (the 2012 Cubs) are young, I think they can sneak up on people. I don't think anyone is looking for them to do anything. If they can shore up their middle-to-late relief and (closer Carlos) Marmol shows up and if (Jeff) Samardzija shows up … there's a lot of 'ifs' in there."
Trudie Acheatel is a longtime Cubs fan who said she gained her strength to emerge from using a wheelchair after listening to the encouraging messages from the late Ron Santo, who battled the effects of diabetes.
"I am a die-hard Cubs fan … almost 56 years," she said. Acheatel said her favorite all-time Cubs player is Ernie Banks. But "Ron Santo has been my inspiration to get to get out of the wheelchair. This is the first year I am walking since 2002."
Another longtime fan, Jerry Pritikin, 75, walked outside Wrigley Field, but said he had no plans to attend the game.
"I have followed (the Cubs) since '45, but my first opener was in '47," Pritikin said. He is affectionately known around Wrigleyville as the "Bleacher Preacher."
"They made the right move in getting (Theo) Epstein. But the fact is it's not going to happen," he said. "This ballpark is known as the Friendly Confines, but you don't see your friends in there anymore. The everyday fan is history. And that was the beauty of this ballpark. I could take it that the Cubs were losing because you met great people. Now you have to be a millionaire to buy a ticket. And a family man can't take his kids to the ballpark."
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