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At The Cubs' Arizona Retreat, A Fond Reminder Of Wrigley


Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, turns 100 years old this season. Cubs Field, the team's spring training stadium in Mesa, Arizona, opened less than a month ago. The new stadium is in the desert, not an old Chicago neighborhood, but in lots of ways the new place evokes the old. NPR's Ted Robbins sent this postcard.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Walking into the new Cubs' stadium isn't going to give you the same sense of history as walking into Wrigley Field, but it sure felt familiar to Peggy Chancin(ph) who posed with her family for a picture under the big red sign.

PEGGY CHANCIN: We have a picture of us standing outside of Wrigley, the same thing.

ROBBINS: Same shape, same vintage lettering as the marquee outside Wrigley. The ironwork above the stands, the brickwork behind home plate, the clock above the scoreboard, they all echo Wrigley. Close your eyes and you'll swear you're in Arizona. There's no humidity and it's sunny all the time. Open your eyes and you'll notice there's no ivy on the outfield walls, no bleachers either. Instead, there's a lawn. A seat, a lawn, it's all good to Ron Bonoff(ph) and his friends.

RON BONOFF: We just have a lot of fun. We support our loyal beer - our beer vendor, which is right there, who just walked right by us.


ROBBINS: Makes no difference where Bobby Shaw(ph) works. This is his 32nd season in Arizona and at Wrigley.

BOBBY SHAW: I have a home down here so I work down here and spend some time down here in the wintertime and work in Chicago all summer.

ROBBINS: He definitely likes this place better than the old spring training stadium nearby, but Shaw won't compare either to Wrigley. They're different, he says. Ask Ferguson Jenkins, on the other hand, how they new place compares...

FERGUSON JENKINS: Oh, sir, believe me, much better. Much, much better.

ROBBINS: The former Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher says for players, this newest Cactus League stadium beats all.

JENKINS: The clubhouse is so incredible, they have a cafeteria. They have a showroom. The exercise room is a combination between L.A. Fitness and Gold's Gym.

ROBBINS: That's what $99 million in public funding buys. So far it's paying off. Chicago fans are loyal. Sellouts are a regular occurrence. On this day, Cubs Field set a Cactus League attendance record: more than 15,000 fans. The home opener at Wrigley is April 4. It will likely sell out, too. Now, what the Cubs need is a winning season. Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.