Behind the mask of Cubs’ Willson Contreras

What you didn’t know about the Cubs catcher, those horses in the video, his connection to Carlos Zambrano and why he throws so hard.

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

How much do you know about Cubs catcher Willson Contreras?

Five things you didn’t know:

  1. Those horses he rides in that video the Cubs play before home games and circulate on social media? They belong to his Florida neighbor and former big-leaguer Victor Martinez. “I love horses,” said Contreras, whose father taught him how to ride as a small child. But he doesn’t have any. And doesn’t have a ranch anyway. “I don’t have to,” he said. “I just go to Victor Martinez’s ranch, and he has 15 or 16 horses. We’re pretty close friends.”
  2. “Carlos Zambrano was an idol for me,” Contreras said, “because he was one of the biggest big-leaguers to come from my hometown. He was one of the guys you looked up to.” Zambrano, Contreras and Pablo Sandoval might be the most prominent big-league players to grow up in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela (Jose Altuve was born there, but did not grow up there).
  3. As far as he’s concerned “everything is normal” with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina more than a year after Molina’s crabby social media response to Contreras’ assertion at Cubs Convention that the young Cub planned “to be better than” Molina and Buster Posey. “Respect the ranks,” Molina retorted in Spanish – a few months before running into Contreras at the All-Star Game. “We just let it go and talked about baseball, how fast time goes by and about playing hard and trying to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Contreras said. Besides, Molina seems to have a habit of getting crabby on Instagram. “Yeah, and not just with me,” Contreras said. Just ask Kris Bryant.
  4. He was signed as a third baseman, having played every position growing up except pitcher and catcher. The organization started transitioning him to catcher in 2012, three years after signing him. “They asked me if I wanted to catch; I said I’ll play any position you want me to play,” he said. “I’ve always been a guy who likes to try a lot of things.” Four years later, he was the Cubs’ starting catcher in the World Series.
  5. His powerful throwing arm might have been developed during his youth when he and friends would throw heavy rocks to try to knock mangos out of trees in their neighborhood. “I’m sure,” he said. “I used to throw a lot of rocks, man.”

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