2016 Cubs Convention: Rock Star Rookies
Cubs rookies stood out in a big way in 2015, helping the Cubs reach the postseason. Hear from Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber on what it was like to make such a big impact in their first season in the big leagues. Jim Deshaies will get these key contributors talking.
Kyle Schwarber doesn’t want to put individual number goals on himself. He just wants to contribute, even if that just means moving the guy over to third when he’s supposed to. As a team the playoffs and the division are a goal, and they’ll see what happens from there.
Addison Russell doesn’t feel the pressure. But he believes that with the new additions, they have the capabilities to win it all. Whenever Russell sees his teammates play, he says their natural talents speak for themselves and they don’t let the pressure get to them, which allows him to play more freely as a result. Javier Baez agrees, and feels that getting a ring would be the goal.
Kris Bryant had a big year, including an engagement. He called 2015 the best year of his life. He also said he thought 2013 was the best year of his life, then 2014 happened.
Russell’s play in the hole against the Cardinals during the tail end of the regular season was his, “Welcome to the big leagues moment.” He believes that his excitement was something that he doesn’t generally show, but it was a great personal moment in his baseball career.
Russell said he gave up No. 22 because Heyward has always had a good reason to wear it, honoring an old high school classmate. Russell has always liked the No. 27 and had never been able to wear it. Schwarber wasn’t able to wear No. 12 at Indiana and switched to No. 10. Obviously he wasn’t able to wear that number with the Cubs, as it’s retired for legend Ron Santo. Both Baez and Bryant both liked the No. 23, which was also unavailable due to Ryne Sandberg’s jersey number reitrement. Baez switched to No. 9 because he liked it and Bryant took No. 17 because of his dad, who wore that number in the minors.
Russell joked that he got a lot of spankings as a kid, but he could go on and on talking about how great his parents are. Schwarber said his parents are his role models. The lefty slugger said he would go out to fields to take batting practice with both his parents; his dad would toss pitches and his mom would shag fly balls on her own.
Baez said he went into manager Joe Maddon’s office when he first came up where, “He told me just to go out there and ‘try not to suck.’”
Schwarber was tutored and mentored by both Jon Lester and David Ross. He and Ross would sit together in the dugout for a lot of the season to break down the game, especially fellow catcher Miguel Montero. Russell said Ross and Lester helped him out also, as well as former Cub Edwin Jackson. He felt he could connect with the ex-Cub pitcher. Baez credits Manny Ramirez and former Cub Starlin Castro. He also said Pedro Strop knows a ton about the game and is always somebody he has conversations with. Bryant was helped out by both Anthony Rizzo, former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler and Ross as well.
Bryant believes the biggest difference between the minors and the majors is just the star factor and that he’s facing guys on a regular basis that he grew up watching on a daily basis.
Schwarber said he didn’t really change as a player when he first became a Cub, but the most important thing to keep in mind is just to remember where he came from.
Russell credits minor league guys like Anthony Giansanti for making the transition easier from Oakland’s system to the Cubs.
Bryant enjoys the idea of playing all over the field. He thinks it brings a new focus. Schwarber was told he almost went in to play third base during the NLCS. He told Maddon he hadn’t played there before but “he’d block it for him.”