Zambrano covets new digs for Cubs

Updated: April 4, 2009, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Standing in the plush visitors' clubhouse of Yankee Stadium, Carlos Zambrano made a plea for Chicago to replace Wrigley Field.

"You come into a ballpark like this and you see great things," the Cubs ace told The Associated Press on Saturday before his team's 10-1 exhibition loss at the sparkling ballpark in the Bronx.

Zambrano
Zambrano

"You wish that Chicago'd build a new stadium for the Cubs," he said.

Built in 1914 and home to the Cubs since 1916, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest major league stadium, trailing only Boston's Fenway Park (1912). Fans in Chicago still flock to see the ivy-covered walls and keep alive Harry Caray's tradition of singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during every seventh-inning stretch.

In 2008, their 100th season without a World Series title, the Cubs drew a Wrigley record of 3,300,200 fans, and thousands more peered into the field from rooftops near the neighborhood park.

Zambrano wasn't just being his unpredictable self Saturday. As a player he wants a relaxing environment to work in, and he understands Wrigley's appeal for fans despite the lack of amenities -- who needs a martini bar, as there is in the new, $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, when you can go loopy just trying to figure out the wind direction for that day's game?

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"People are used to Wrigley Field," he said. "As a fan it's hard to think of a new ballpark."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella couldn't agree less with his Opening Day starter. The former Yankees outfielder and manager was enchanted by the new ballpark in the Bronx, but can't wait to return to Chicago for the first home game on April 13.

"I don't see why," Piniella said when asked if the Cubs need a new stadium. "Wrigley's got its own uniqueness. There's no question the facilities need to be redone but that's going to happen.

"My favorite time of year is when the ivy turns green. It's really a great environment to play a ballgame," he said.

Planted in 1937, the ivy that clings to the outfield wall sometimes snares balls.

But his favorite part of managing a team at Wrigley is checking the flags to see how the wind is blowing and then devising a lineup based on the directions.

"It's like playing the British Open over there," he said. "You've got to adjust to the weather."

After two years as manager of the Cubs, Piniella has become well attuned to a ballpark's wind. Aftere just one game at the new stadium in New York, he said, "It seems like there's a wind tunnel that shoots the ball to right-center."

Two of the Yankees' four homers Saturday went to right-center.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press