Cubs outfielder Ian Happ earns first All-Star selection: ‘Super-emotional’
The Cubs are set to send two players to the All-Star Game, Happ and catcher Willson Contreras.
LOS ANGELES — Cubs manager David Ross knew outfielder Ian Happ would be on guard when he called a pregame meeting Sunday. So he started it with a decoy: All-Star break schedule and travel details.
Only after that did Ross deliver the news that Happ had earned his first All-Star selection, voted in by major-league players, managers and coaches.
‘‘He just put his head in his hands, got super-emotional,’’ Ross said. ‘‘And all his teammates started clapping really loud and lots of hugs. . . . That’s a guy that puts a lot of pressure on himself, believes in himself. And to see that pay off, I’m super-happy for him.’’
Major League Baseball announced All-Star pitchers and reserves, including Happ, on Sunday. While starters are elected through a fan vote, pitchers and reserves are chosen through player balloting and commissioner’s office selections.
Asked whether he could describe what he was feeling when he got the news, Happ paused before saying: ‘‘No. It’s just years of hard work and everything that goes into it. You think about all the people that helped along the way, family, friends.’’
The Cubs are set to send two players, Happ and National League starting catcher Willson Contreras, to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game on July 19. Head trainer P.J. Mainville was one of two trainers selected to work with the NL squad.
Contreras has been lobbying for Happ’s All-Star candidacy for weeks.
‘‘The work he’s done this year is impressive,’’ Contreras said recently. ‘‘And I 100% know that he deserves to be there with me.’’
Entering play Sunday, Happ ranked third among NL outfielders in on-base percentage (.372) and among the top five in batting average (.277) and wins above replacement (2.2), according to FanGraphs.
‘‘[Happ] has been as consistent of a player as I’ve ever seen him be,’’ Ross said. ‘‘And the fact that he gets rewarded for that, being an All-Star, he’s deserving of that. I think he’s upped his game — not just offensive numbers, but his defense, his baserunning. His all-around game has been stellar.’’
Last June, Ross called Happ into the visiting manager’s office at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs were tied for first place in the NL Central, but Happ was hitting .182.
‘‘He basically said I wasn’t going to play for the series much and would kind of be coming off the bench because I was struggling so bad,’’ Happ said. ‘‘And I cried in his office.’’
Cubs fans know the rest. Happ finished last season on a two-month tear, and his success at the plate carried over into this season. Now things have come full circle at Dodger Stadium.
Happ, a first-round pick in 2015 who debuted with the Cubs in 2017 and was sent to Triple-A Iowa for half the season in 2019, had plenty come to mind when he was asked what he was most proud of in his journey.
‘‘I don’t know if there’s one specific thing,’’ he said. ‘‘But just sticking with it. Everybody in their careers has ups and downs. You think back to some of those really low moments where you’re questioning your confidence and your ability. And to be able to come to the other side of that and feel like you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve gotten a recognition like this, it’s really special.’’
Happ had one request of Ross after the manager announced Contreras’ All-Star selection in front of the team Friday.
‘‘I told him, ‘I’m gonna be waterworks,’ ’’ Happ said. ‘‘ ‘You’ve got to call me in the office or something.’ ’’
‘‘So I couldn’t wait to give the news in front of everybody,’’ Ross said.