Even after Anthony Rizzo ended a wildly anticipated Monday home opener for the Cubs with a Tuesday morning finish that looked scripted by Disney, most of what stuck with him afterward was the rush that overcame him before the game.
“That pregame ceremony – I wasn’t expecting to get hit with that many emotions,” said Rizzo, who led teammates in raising the 2016 World Series championship banner from the bleachers near the scoreboard.
“It was amazing,” said Rizzo, who was told only Monday afternoon how prominent his role would be in that ceremony as the tenured player on the team – who had endured a 100-loss season in 2012 before building toward last year’s 103-win success.
“I was like, `Wow, that’s just an honor for me, for my family, to be part of this city for the really bad times when new ownership got here, and the really good times’ – it was a lot of emotions,” he said.
“I was fighting back tears a lot.”
It was almost as if the easy part was the opposite-field single he hit off Dodgers All-Star closer Kenley Jansen with two out in the bottom of the ninth to drive home Jon Jay from third for a 3-2 victory.
Now comes the encore for Cubs players – the thing many have said they looked forward to more than the banner raising.
The championship rings that are believed to be the most expensive in baseball history – with 108 diamonds in each – are unveiled Wednesday in another pregame ceremony.
“I don’t know how it could top [Monday], but then you get the ring,” said Rizzo, one of a handful of players with significant input in designing the historic rings. “For me to just give it to my dad and show him and see how happy he’s going to be, and my mom – to just show all my friends and family. It’ll be another special night.”
Kyle Schwarber, the two-time postseason hitting hero who has yet to play a full regular season, didn’t hesitate when asked before Monday’s ceremony to rank the two ceremonies by his anticipation level.
“The ring,” said Schwarber, who returned early from a season-long knee injury to DH during the World Series. “That’s that one symbol you keep for your own personal sake, knowing all the hard work paid off and knowing nobody’s going to be able to take that away from you.”
Outfielder Jason Heyward, who signed with the Cubs before 2016 in large part to be part of the team that would finally break the “curse,” called the trophy a treasured award “you get to hold up as a group” but described the rings in more personal terms.
“It kind of makes you a family,” he said. “And you just get to signify that even more by having those rings. Just something you can easily look at and take you back to a lot of places.
“I don’t know how much I’ll wear it,” he said. “I’ll cherish it. I’ll probably look at it a lot.”
Kris Bryant, last year’s National League MVP, said it’s been a long wait for the prized rings that he has only seen pictures of.
“You work so hard for it and get to wait five months to finally get it. I’m excited for it,” said Bryant, who isn’t sure how much he’ll wear it, even initially. “It depends how shiny it is. If it’s really shiny maybe it’ll attract a lot of attention.
“But I think it’s important to wear it and show it off. It’s been a long time to finally get that. We should all be really proud of it. I’m a big believer in that, to [have pride] in something like that and show it off. We did it. I’m sure right when we get it, all of us will be wearing it all the time.
“It’ll be close to me, maybe locked up somewhere,” he said. “It’s probably going to be one of my most prized possessions that I might ever have.”