Denny Garkey is a self-proclaimed big kid. At 59 years old, he says he never really grew up, which is why he wanted to build Little Cubs Field. A major tourist attraction, this near-exact duplicate of Wrigley Field is just a giant toy to him.
The idea for the field came to Garkey six years ago, and on April 28, 2008, his idea came to fruition, with the first little league game played there. Visitors from as far away as Oklahoma and Colorado have already traveled great distances to check out the distinctive replica, located in Freeport, Ill., midway between Chicago and Galena.
To determine the exact contours of the esteemed ballpark, Garkey shrunk an aerial photo from Google Earth down to the desired size: 100 feet down the foul lines, 112 feet to straightaway center field. Some of the details were harder to exact—such as the curve in the outfield’s brick wall or the huge scoreboard, which stands 16 feet high and 30 feet wide. “A lot of people—when they see photographs with just the scoreboard in it—they think it’s the one at Wrigley Field,” Garkey said. Many don’t believe him until he points out the blue sky in the background rather than Wrigley’s famous bleacher seats.
About 95 percent of the skilled labor required to build the field was donated by unions, including the bricklayers’, carpenters’, electrical workers’ and iron workers’ unions. In addition, hundreds of volunteers from throughout the community contributed their time for other tasks, such as digging ditches, painting and hammering nails.
Little Cubs Field has had the support of its parent team from the very beginning. Former Cubs slugger Ron Santo, in particular, has been a strong proponent, helping to raise funds for the project and appearing at the field’s June 14th grand opening. On July 19th, Hall of Fame Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be on hand from 9am to noon to sign autographs, take part in a little league clinic and pitch three pitches to anyone for a small donation.
Little Cubs Field is open to the public at least six hours each day, from 8 to 10am, noon to 2pm and 4 to 6pm, for anyone to walk onto the field and play free of charge. Freeport’s Little League baseball and softball teams use the field every weeknight, and it is available to rent for $35 an hour in one- or two-hour sessions, from 10am to noon, 2 to 4pm, and 6 to 8pm. In its short life, the site has already played host to family and church picnics, birthday parties, reunions and even a wedding. For more information, visit littlecubsfield.com.
• Ivy-covered brick for outfield walls made from actual Wrigley Field ivy cuttings
• Foul poles complete with flags of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg
• Traditional hand-operated center field scoreboard with flags, pennants and a working clock on top
• A basket over the outfield walls
• Kinks in the outfield walls
• Traditional green doors
• Authentic-looking dugouts, both inside and out
• A replica of the famous red marquee sign over the entrance gates
• A high-quality grass infield and the outfield warning track, with some of the dirt and grass from Wrigley
• A 220-power-capability sound system to allow for concerts and other entertainment-oriented events
• A hand-painted mural of a crowd scene below the center field scoreboard
• Sheffield and Waveland Avenue street signs/walkways at appropriate locations. a&s