Cubs’ Ian Happ on homestand: ‘I don’t want to leave here without absorbing it’
The Cubs’ two-game set against the Pirates is their last series at Wrigley Field before the trade deadline.
After jogging out to left field, the Cubs’ Ian Happ pulled off his hat and gazed out over the bleachers. The fans responded with a surge of cheers. His routine before first pitch held a little extra sentimentality Monday.
‘‘I don’t want to leave here without absorbing it and taking it in,’’ Happ said before the Cubs’ 3-2 victory against the Pirates moved them to 4-0 since the All-Star break and gave them their fifth victory in a row overall.
The two-game set against the Pirates is the Cubs’ last home series before the trade deadline next Tuesday. So it also might be Happ’s last series at Wrigley Field in blue pinstripes. He and catcher Willson Contreras are the longest-tenured Cubs, and both are involved in trade speculation.
‘‘It’s a weird thing we signed up for sometimes,’’ Happ said. ‘‘Especially when I’ve been here since 2015. Willson’s been here forever.’’
Since 2009, when the Cubs signed Contreras out of Venezuela, to be exact. And manager David Ross pointed to Contreras, the player who has navigated the most contract and trade speculation of any Cubs player this season, as an example of remaining focused on the field amid the distractions.
For his part, Contreras fought back tears after the game.
‘‘I’m trying just to appreciate everything that Wrigley Field is and thinking about all the memories that I have here since 2016, [in the organization] from 2009 till now,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s probably — I don’t know — but probably my last homestand with the fans this year. It’s tough for me. It’s really tough.’’
Contreras and Happ witnessed Anthony Rizzo’s trade last season right after the Cubs’ last home game before the deadline. He was the first of a core trio, including Javy Baez and Kris Bryant, to be traded in 24 hours.
The schedule this season, however, gives the Cubs a week on the road leading up to the deadline. So the Wrigley goodbyes will have to come early, with plenty of uncertainty ahead.
The draft last week made Happ reminisce about his own draft day, how much he has grown in the Cubs’ organization since and all the relationships he has fostered in the last seven years.
‘‘I don’t want my Cubs journey to end,’’ Happ said. ‘‘I don’t want to stop putting the uniform on and coming here every day.’’
On the other hand, he has seen how well his former teammates Rizzo, Bryant and Baez are doing after being traded.
Even for players without the depth of connection to the organization that Contreras and Happ have, the deadline can bring mixed emotions.
Take it from veteran left-hander Drew Smyly, who signed with the Cubs this spring. He had rehabbed from Tommy John surgery in the organization in 2018, but he hadn’t played for the major-league squad before this season.
‘‘I love it here; I love being a Cub,’’ Smyly said after his start Sunday in Philadelphia. ‘‘This is a really fun organization to be part of. Home games are amazing. This clubhouse is awesome. We haven’t got off to the best start. Obviously, our record’s not where we want to be. But showing up every day, everyone has smiles on their face.
‘‘And being in a lot of different clubhouses, you really soak that in as a player, knowing that you look forward to going to the field every day. There are winning teams where it’s just not that vibe.’’
Still, the Cubs won’t be vying for a championship this season, and being traded to a contender reopens that possibility for players.
‘‘Trying to really enjoy the next two days here, no matter what,’’ Happ said. ‘‘And we’ll see what happens.’’