Beyond The Ivy- The Hidden Faces of Wrigley Field
An Exclusive Interview with Andrew Belleson, the Voice of the Chicago Cubs
As Cubs fans we can all name the players on the current roster from top to bottom. We all know the impact that people like Joe Maddon, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have had on the team. In fact, if you are a true fan you can probably even name each member of the Ricketts family.
However, there are many people who contribute in big ways all across the Cubs organization that you probably don’t know at all. These are the people behind the scenes helping make your experience at Wrigley Field more than just a ball game. These are the people I want you to know. These are the hidden faces of Wrigley Field.
On Sunday just about three hours before the Cubs would start their Opening Day game against the St. Louis Cardinals, I had the honor of interviewing one of these people. I mentioned that these are the hidden faces of Wrigley, but this person is someone you are somewhat familiar with. You may not know his name, but if you’ve been to a game anytime since 2011 then you know his voice. His name is Andrew Belleson, and he is the Chicago Cubs Public Address Announcer — the Voice of the Chicago Cubs.
Andrew has a very unique story to tell and he took the time to share it with me. Belleson is a Chicago kid that landed himself one of the best seats in all of Wrigley Field.
Me- As a kid that grew up in Chicago and a life long Cubs fan, Who is your all-time favorite Cubs player?
“When I was a kid it was Mark grace for sure. Before I stopped playing ball in college I was a 1st baseman, corner outfielder and a lefty. So I would say for sure it was Mark Grace.”
Me- For those that don’t know already you became the Cubs PA announcer in 2011 by entering a video submission contest hosted by the Cubs. Can you talk a little about the entire process and what that experience was like?
“It was a blur really. When they opened it up for submissions it was maybe about 6–8 weeks before Opening Day. We had to do a YouTube video through Career builder reading a demo script that was provided by the Cubs. There was just shy of 3000 people that submitted a video. Once the Organization sorted through all of those they narrowed it down to 25 entrants somehow. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, and I were in Florida on Spring Break when the Cubs called and said I had been selected as one of the 25 finalists. The 25 of us had to go to Wrigley Field and do a live audition. We basically did a pretend pregame of what a normal game day would be.”
“From there they narrowed it down to 4 of us to come back and do the same thing, but this time some of the front office and some of the Ricketts family were in the stands listening to us. They took notes and gave input on what they liked and disliked and helped with the final decision. Then about 2–3 days later I received an e-mail asking if I was available to talk for a minute. Shortly after that they called and offered me the job. It was a really crazy experience, but really cool at the same time.”
Me- You hear people say that someone was destined to be what they had become. Is it true that as a kid you had mural painted on your bedroom wall of the Wrigley Press-box?
“Yes it is true.(laughing) One of my parents friends is a very talented artist and she came over and did some work for them. One of the things she did was take an entire wall of my bedroom and paint a mural. If you were standing on home plate looking up at the press-box it had the stands and the press-box painted on my wall. In the booth was a little cartoon character of myself and Harry Caray sitting together in the booth. It was a pretty cool thing to have.”
Me- When you stepped into the booth for the first time was it hard to separate being a fan from being a professional PA announcer?
“People always ask me if I was nervous on Opening Day. I don’t think I was any more nervous that first day than I am now. It’s not really nervousness at all. Like yourself being a fan you just care so you’re emotionally involved and emotionally invested. So there is a little anxiousness, but not really nerves at all. You just care about the job they want you to do, but you also care about what happens on the field too. You can’t really separate, but we really don’t have to separate. We’re up there cheering and yelling and when things go poorly we’re saying other things like anyone else in the stands would. We can do that, but when the mic’s on you have to turn the emotion off. Other than that we act like we would if we were watching at home or sitting in the stands.”
Me- You said you don’t get nervous, but what about announcing the first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945?
“Yeah a little bit, but it was in a good way. I guess it’s like I was saying, we are fans and you just think about the magnitude of what that all meant and I still don’t think it has really sunk in completely. Even though I know the new season starts tonight we still got to move on. You think about the stage that all of us Cubs fans were on and it was almost surreal. When I thought about it like that I guess I maybe got a little more anxious than normal. It’s always just the same routine rather it’s a spring training game or World Series game. Obviously some have much more meaning, but it’s a certain comfort zone you get into after that”
Me- Were you able to join the team in Cleveland for Game 7 or did you watch the game somewhere else?
“We stayed home and watched it alone with just the family so we could focus 100%. We had many invites to go out and meet others, but my wife and myself both said let’s stay home and watch it. We were glued to the TV of course.”
Me- You sound like me. I always let everyone know that I want to truly watch the game so I can focus on every aspect. Was it kind of like that then for you?
“Exactly! You know you end up missing something and it’s obviously the most important game of our lives as Cubs fans. So yeah we thought it was better to stay home and focus and enjoy it.”
Me- Have you given much thought or been practicing the fact that this season you get to be the first PA announcer since 1908 to announce the team as the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs?
“I’ll be honest with you, I have thought about it over the last couple of weeks a lot as we get ready for Opening Day at Wrigley. Seeing the banners going up and doing all that is really going to be neat. The coolest thing is I remember going to Opening Day as a kid and it was always my favorite game to go to. It’s such a great atmosphere with a different feeling about it. It’s a fresh start basically. No matter what the previous season outcome was. When I was a kid the Cubs teams obviously weren't the best, so next year really did matter. Opening Day is always just crazy and we were talking about that recently. I think Opening Day is always such a spectacle, but given the fact that we are coming off a World Series and the banners are going up, I think it’s going to be more intense than maybe the last World Series game was. So it’s going to be really cool and I'm really excited.”
Me- Has the vibe around Wrigley changed any heading into the 2017 season as World Series Champs?
“I think in a way it has. There was a lot of expectation last year coming off the 2015 season. I don’t know if anyone could have accurately predicted what was going to happen, but they had a great 2015 season and people had high expectations heading into 2016. I do think that with all the changes around the park that the area looks phenomenal and the Wrigleyville area is in better shape than it’s ever been in. I personally think the area around the park and all the renovations have been done really tastefully. They have spruced it up and brought it into the current times. You couple all that is going on and the product on the field and it’s really just an exciting time to be a Cubs fan. It’s hard sometimes to take a little snapshot and enjoy it because it goes so fast. That’s what I tried to do throughout the whole playoff run and just really have enjoyed it. You and I both know that you can’t take it for granted, because you never know if you’ll be back soon. Nothing is promised so you have to enjoy it.”
Me- Not only have you watched the evolution of this team, but you have also watched the evolution of the ballpark. Has the new editions like the Video board changed the way you do your job in any way?
“Yeah that’s a great question because it really has. It’s made it a lot easier just having those to rely on. I keep score during the game because it’s a personal preference of mine. I don’t have to do it like a broadcaster per-say, but I’m just accustomed to doing it. To have the video boards up and endless amounts of information coming through is really nice. Their score cards are up and their player stats are up so you can double-check and cross-check your own. I think the biggest thing for me, which is great, is when it comes to all the replays that we have now, because there’s quite a few, is to be able to rely on those boards for the in-house replay. It’s just great to have.”
“I guess before we had them at Wrigley and growing up as a fan you didn’t really think you needed it. Now it’s there and the manner in which they did it, it’s really just a nice asset to have. Personally I’m a fan of the boards and I don’t have to say that, but they look like they have always been there. They blend so well and they don’t stick out like some Arenas and Parks across the country. I think obviously it was a necessity, but it was done in as good a way as it could be. I personally just Love it.”
Me- I know you’re entering your 7th season on the job, but has it really ever set it that you are now “The Voice of the Chicago Cubs”?
“I don’t think maybe it ever really will completely. I never take it for granted. I mean there have been times when it’s a long season and you get a little burned out, but then I just take a step back and look at what I do and what I’m allowed to do and it’s just the neatest opportunity in the world. So No I don’t think ever it will really sink in. Every time I go to work, if you can call it work, and walk into Wrigley just as a fan, which I am, it really hits home. You’re like Wow, because you’re going upstairs to the press-box to work and it’s somewhere you dreamed about just seeing as a kid and now your going there. It’s just really cool and I am very fortunate. So again No I don’t think it will ever completely sink in to that level. “
Me- I won’t ask you to predict another World Series or not, but do you think the Cubs have the potential to be as good or better this year?
“That’s a good question. The prediction thing I just really try to leave it alone, but I mean this is a scary thing to think about, but I think they have the potential to score even more runs than they did last year. Now can they prevent as many runs as they did last year remains to be seen. I was looking at the lineup earlier on Twitter and when you have a Kris Bryant batting 2nd and a Javy Baez batting 9th you know you are doing something right. They just look scary good.
Given the division it’s not a slouch of a division by any means. I think the Cardinals are going to be better than many people think, I really do. However, I think they have a really really great chance to win the division again this year. By as many games? That I don’t know, but if they can keep those arms in the rotation healthy, in my opinion watch out. I love the bullpen and think they could be better than last year, if that’s possible. I mean I know how hard it is to win a World Series let alone do it in back-to-back years, but if any team was built to do it I think this would be the team.”
The next time you go to Wrigley Field and you hear that magic voice piping through the loud speakers calling out your favorite players name you can rest assured that on the other end of that mic is just another loyal Cubs fan just like you.
If you’re looking for a loyal Cubs fan to follow you can find Andrew Belleson on twitter @ChicagoCubsPA where he likes to interact with fellow Cubs fans.
Craig House is a Loyal Cubs fan and Co-EIC & Co-Owner of WrigleyRapport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Craig_House3. Stay Tuned for more of his new series “Beyond the Ivy” The Hidden Faces of Wrigley Field coming soon.