Moving down to better seats at a major league ball game is practically an initiation rite for fans. I go to several Cubs and Sox games a year, and I not only see it happen all the time but occasionally I do it too. The ushers at Wrigley Field, however, seem preoccupied with stopping it.

Consider this: at a recent game I was sitting five rows back, just past the Cubs dugout toward left field. The guy in front of me stood to take pictures of Kosuke Fukudome each time he came to bat. He was with three men in business casual. They looked Japanese.

“Are you Japanese?” I asked. “No, I’m from Chicago,” he replied in perfect English. “But my friends are.” Hi, I’m an idiot, nice to meet you.

He knew a lot about Fukudome’s baseball days in Japan and he wanted to give his friends the best possible view of the game. There were a few empty seats in the front row and he’d already spoken to an usher about moving down to them. The usher, who didn’t happen to be the main usher guarding that aisle, told him that in order to do that they’d need season tickets to those seats. Even game tickets to the seats wouldn’t be good enough. They’d need the kind of ducats you get in a pack when you buy a season’s package. 

So the already empty seats were out of the question. More than once the fan walked down to the front row of our section looking for season ticket holders who’d be willing to give him their tickets if they left the game early. Lo and behold, in the 7th inning, with the Cubs well ahead, a middle-aged couple sitting on the aisle in the first row got up, walked right to him, and openly handed him their season tickets.

He nudged one of his friends and, tickets in hand, the two of them moved into the two seats. The main usher, standing just to their right, motioned for their tickets, which they showed. The usher nodded his head and resumed his position on the aisle, and all seemed right in the world. Meanwhile, the two seats to my right were suddenly occupied by 20something dudes with backwards caps and Miller Lites. They wore big smiles. Their secret was safe with me.

Not a half inning later, the usher who’d told the Fukudome fan about the seat-moving policy came down the aisle toward them. Now that the fan and his friend had actually done what the usher had told them was the only way to do it, he felt squeamish. He said they needed to return to their old seats while he checked with his supervisor. “Just gimme a minute and I’ll let you know.”

He was gone half an inning. He came back and said. “I’m really sorry, but I can’t let you sit down there.”

“I thought you said if I had the season tickets I could sit there,” the guy protested.

“I know, I know I told you that before, but we just can’t let you move. I’m really sorry.”

So what’s the deal? 

In the eighth inning I noticed the two seat stealers from my row. They had moved two rows ahead and several seats closer to home plate, and they were chatting up their new neighbors.