Cubs’ Kipnis on return to Cleveland: ‘It literally felt like I was coming home’

The second baseman played nine seasons in Cleveland before signing with the Cubs last offseason.

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The Cubs’ Jason Kipnis gestures to the empty stands after the Cleveland Indians played a tribute to him before their game at Progressive Field.

The Cubs’ Jason Kipnis gestures to the empty stands after the Cleveland Indians played a tribute to him before their game at Progressive Field.

Ron Schwane/Getty Images

It was a Wednesday night in Cleveland when the Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years. The team returned to Cleveland in 2018, but for Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis, this trip was an entirely different experience.

Kipnis was one of the Indians’ longest-tenured players, and Tuesday was the first time he returned as an opposing player to Progressive Field, a place that still feels familiar to him.

“It’s a very homey vibe here,” Kipnis said. “When we got on from the airport and were driving in, it literally felt like I was coming home, kind of like to my actual home, having lived here for nine years or so, and it’s just that everything’s still fresh.

“The difference was I got to walk to the ballpark from a hotel, and instead of turning right down the normal door I always go to, I had to go to a different entrance. So I’m actually being steered to probably a few hallways I didn’t know existed. . . . I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what this looks like in this place.’ I’ve been in the visiting clubhouse, but I’ve not been in the cages or the weight room or even, like, any of these little hallways, nooks and crannies.”

Kipnis’ career in Cleveland was filled with success. He was a two-time All-Star and an integral part of the team that faced the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

While Cleveland didn’t come out victorious, Kipnis still has fond memories of his time with the Indians despite some playful ribbing from first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

“There’s always the bright-light moments,” Kipnis said. “I guess the All-Star Games, the playoff runs, Game 7 [of the 2016 World Series]. It’s hard to put those into words, and there’s just always bits and pieces that come back to you. I’ve already had Rizzo walking me through, ‘I celebrated here, I celebrated here.’ I’m like, ‘Thanks, buddy, I get it.’ ”

Postseason bubble for MLB?

The success of the NBA and NHL bubbles has started more conversations about MLB creating a bubble for its postseason. With longer travel and two recent outbreaks, the bubble might not be the worst thing to help ensure team safety in October.

“Without speaking for the league, I think it does make some sense,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “There’s a lot of travel in the postseason. The first round this year, you would just travel once, but once you get into the later rounds, sometimes you’re traveling multiple times a week.

‘‘And I think what we’ve learned so far is that travel is a difficult part of this. The Marlins’ and Cardinals’ [COVID-19] outbreaks happened on the road with buses, planes and hotel rooms and smaller clubhouses and things like that. I think that’s been a challenge and a challenge the league is trying to address, but still a challenge nonetheless.

‘‘So I think a bubble situation for the playoffs could be in the best interest to make sure that you know those games are played and that the right players are on the field deciding it.”

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