One of the things I appreciate most about being a Cubs fan is that Pride doesn’t stop at the end of June — even in years when the team’s playoff hopes do.
Once the official Pride Night in June passes, that just means it’s only a couple of months until Out At Wrigley, the annual community-run LGBTQ day at the ballpark organized by longtime fan Bill Gubrud.
I’ve been in the ballpark during Out At Wrigley in seasons past, but this past Sunday’s game was the first year I joined up and bought a ticket to sit with the group. And my experience underscored why it’s so important that the Cubs host Out at Wrigley as its own entity outside of Pride month.
Pride Night is the team’s way of telling its LGBTQ fanbase, “You’re welcome here.” In return, Out At Wrigley is the community’s way of telling the team, “We’re here, we’re visible, and we support you.”
The key aspect of what makes Out At Wrigley unique and important is that we attend the game as one big group. Whereas during Pride Night, LGBTQ fans are scattered in pockets throughout the ballpark, during Out At Wrigley, we’re all together in one giant colorful t-shirt clad, rainbow flag bedecked section tucked underneath the left field Jumbotron.
Our visibility as queer baseball fans was undeniable from everywhere in the park. Throughout the game, I was struck by the placement of us as a group hovering directly over the bleachers, a section where the vibe can usually be summed up as, “What if Dave Matthews Band wrote a song about Axe Body Spray?”
Yet there we were, sharing that space and feeling perfectly comfortable being our true selves. As an example: I watched the Bleacher Chads cheering on the collection of empty beer cups to begin their infamous Cup Snake ritual and exclaimed, “I don’t get straight people.” Those surrounding me affirmed my view.
“Me neither,” they all said.
Throughout the game, I kept noticing this sense of community encouraged us as a group to experience Cubs baseball in a way that you can’t replicate while dispersed throughout the grandstand.
At more than 20 games under .500, the 2022 Cubs have spent all season making use grasp for reasons to cheer. This summer, I hadn’t experienced true joy at the ballpark until I sat with Out At Wrigley, as everyone suddenly realized the organist was playing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Our section launched into a spontaneous full-throated sing-a-long that could’ve given “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” a run for its money. All that was missing was Whitney Houston ringing in the key change with “When the night falls, my lonely heart calls…Let’s get some runs!”
I was also hoping the Cubs would force the Colorado Rockies to change pitchers in the middle of an inning, because once Rockies manager Bud Black lifted his starter three batters into the sixth, as per tradition, the Wrigley Field PA began playing the unmistakable intro to “YMCA.”
Immediately, it was as if our entire section stood up and told the rest of the ballpark, “We got this.” For once, the vibe for this moment was less “tipsy great uncle at a wedding reception” and more “uninhibited Pride.” And I can finally state this with certainty: the Wrigley Field “YMCA” experience is only enhanced by the presence of drag queens.
Perhaps most importantly, being surrounded by this group meant that the conversations I had throughout the game ranged from the necessity of the Cubs extending All Star catcher Willson Contreras, to the eternal hotness of shortstop Nico Hoerner, and finally, to Lady Gaga’s status as an LGBTQ icon.
It might have been the first time a baseball game covered all of my conversational bases. And it was because I was surrounded by people who shared a major passion for at least one of them.
The Cubs couldn’t come all the way back from an early four-run deficit and dropped the game 4-3. But this was a rare day when even they couldn’t disappoint us, or crush the overall good feeling of being at my favorite place in the world surrounded by people just like me.
Above all else, that’s why Out At Wrigley is an essential part of the Cubs baseball calendar.