Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Norridge Man Creates "Friendly Confines" At His Home (Field)

Most Cub fans like to visit Wrigley Field for day baseball, to look at the lush field and its ivy-covered walls and to relax in a great atmosphere. Some go as far as describing it as Heavenly. For Norridge resident Dean Igaravidez, it is home.

No, Igaravidez doesn’t actually live at Wrigley Field. Instead he’s turned where he lives into Wrigley...well, at least the back yard!

Complete with ivy covered walls, distance markers, a miniature infield, and numerous signs that one would find at the real Wrigley, Igaravidez can enjoy most of the comforts of Wrigley without leaving home.

Igaravidez, a 58-year-old produce manager, said the idea for his tribute started about eight years ago when he was in his backyard at 4059 N. Ozanam Ave., looking at his detached garage.

“I thought it would make a nice outfield wall,” Igaravidez said. So, the next step for him was to call a landscaper friend and plant some ivy.

“We only planted three plants. It’s Boston Ivy, which is the same as at Wrigley, Igaravidez explained. “The first year after I planted it, nothing really grew. Then one day I arrived home from work and bam! It had sprouted.”

Despite the fact that the ivy comes back every spring, there is some maintenance that is required. “You have to continually trim it and in August it starts to fade a bit …kind of like the Cubs,” Igaravidez joked.

After the Ivy took off, Igaravidez turned his lawn into an infield, cutting out the grass by hand to create the base paths and a raised pitcher’s mound, which he then filled with the same type of clay-dirt that they have at Wrigley Field.

Igaravidez said one perk of working at a Lincoln Park grocery store is getting to know many people -- such as beer distributors who are Cub fans who have access to different items, several of which have made it into his yard. “I have people,” Igaravidez joked.

Indeed, a sign-maker friend donated the home-run distance signs that hang on the “outfield” wall on the Ivy. He also has the numbers of all the Cub hall-of-fame players and Ron Santo on the outside of the garage door, along with a Waveland Avenue street sign. A new scoreboard is currently being made, after the last one had to be retired due to harsh weather. Of course, the “W” flag is a must, although these days Igaravidez, who jokingly described himself as “old,” explained that he only has the energy to fly it after big wins.

“I never flew the “L” flag,” he added.

Besides having to keep the ivy from overgrowing, Igaravidez said it is a challenge to cut the grass properly and also to keep the family’s chocolate Labrador “Brando” from relieving himself on “sacred ground.”

Brando the Cub critic!

“He always urinates on the side of the garage where he is supposed to go, but sometimes he goes number two in left-center,” Igaravidez said. “Maybe he’s trying to tell [Alfonso] Soriano something.”
Driving past the front of Igaravidez home, one probably would not notice anything out of the ordinary. The house is a well-kept white frame-house with lots of flowers and a nicely manicured lawn. Of course, the doorbell does play ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame.’

“The house is my wife Jill’s domain, I have the yard and garage,” he explained. Indeed, when asked his wife’s opinion of his tribute, Igaravidez said “she hates it,” and clarified, saying, “Let’s just say she’s not as enthused as me.”

A few minutes later, unaware that her husband was being interviewed, Jill Igaravidez arrived home and gave a look that reminded me of Alice looking at her husband Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners, wondering what scheme he was up to now. And while Jill admitted that while she also is a Cub fan, she said she did not warm up to it until their three grandsons, between age 2 and 8, began to appreciate it. One difference between his yard and Wrigley Field (although debatable lately) is that Elmo currently occupies the pitcher’s mound at the Igaravidez home.

“That is for the grandkids, obviously.” Igaravidez explained.

One great thing about having two Major League baseball teams in Chicago is the friendly rivalry that often occurs between friends. Of course, in Norridge, the population is overwhelmingly Cub friendly. Igaravidez said his neighbors do not mind that his devotion is on display and no one ever stole or damaged anything. Last year though, he did receive a letter in the mail from a White Sox fan.

“It had a Bridgeport return address,” Igaravidez said. “It was before the playoffs and he just told me that he hoped the Cubs choked. He sent another letter after they did lose,” Igaravidez said.

“Once in a while we will be sleeping late at night and someone will drive by and yell something,” Jill said. “Some of the things aren’t repeatable,” she said with a laugh.

For full disclosure, I am also a Cub fan, and was sure to wear a Cub shirt for the interview. When asked if he would have talked to me had I worn a White Sox or other team shirt, Igaravidez explained that since I wasn’t family, it was fine. Asked if his three daughters are also Cub fans, he laughed and said “of course, or they wouldn’t be welcomed home.”

Ironically, Igaravidez said if it wasn’t for Wrigley Field he may have grown up a (Heaven forbid!) White Sox fan.

“My grandfather was a White Sox fan because they had a Latin manager [Al Lopez] and they were good, having won the American League Pennant in 1959,” Igaravidez said. Despite the winning ways of the White Sox and the poor record of the Cubs at the time, Igaravidez said his love affair began the first time he entered Wrigley Field as a boy.
“I really fell in love with Wrigley Field first, then the Cubs.” Asked about his relationship with the Cubs today, Igaravidez described it as “religion.”

These days Igaravidez doesn’t go to the real Wrigley Field as much as he used to, (he was a bleacher bum in 1969), mostly because of the inflated prices and because he is “not as young as I used to be and am not crazy about the hassle of the huge crowds.” And although Igaravidez admits to falling asleep before the end of the late away games on the West Coast, he still watches or listens to most games, even while working.

“Luckily Lincoln Park is Cubs country so when there is a game on they will put it on the televisions in the store,” Igaravidez said.

As for the Cubs chances to break their 101-year championship drought, Igaravidez said they have the talent but injuries and inconsistent play are holding them back. He added, half-seriously, that “if they do win, life would be over; there would be nothing left to live for. At least we can say wait until next year.”

Looking into his yard, he lamented the end of season and the start of football. “I should also tell you that I’m also a big Bears fan,” he said with a smirk. “…No, I don’t have room,” Igaravidez said, answering the question before it could be asked.

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