J.T. here. I’ve been a season ticket holder with the same seats at the Iowa Cubs for over 25 years. We’ve been 4th row, right off 1st base the entire time. The Cubs have had a lot of ups and downs along the years. Mostly down. I’ve had a few stray balls from the short stop, that missed the target at first base, hit the seats around me. There have been a ton of can’t miss prospects. I merely have to walk to my closet to see the jerseys of Corey Patterson, Geovany Soto, and yes…Ronnie Cedeno. They didn’t make a Cedeno when I got it, so I had to have it made. I was a huge fan of Ronnie. He was the best fielder I’d seen at the Iowa Cubs, (not named Augie Ojeda) and only Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder seemed to match their hype better. But the Cubs prospects flamed out, one after another. So…I became jaded to “The Next Best Thing”. Seen it before, bought in, left with disappointment and a jersey I could never wear again.
Then Theo took over. My hope was rejuvenated. A bunch of legit prospects were coming through. The crown jewel at the time, was Kris Bryant. I knew he would be along, quickly. But I was also amped to see a young fiery shortstop named Javy Baez come up. He had power, he swung violently, and he was a hot-headed young man with tons of potential and not a ton of maturity. I HAD to see his first home run. Yes, it was only AAA baseball, but I didn’t care. I wanted to see it. Freaking Manny Ramirez was going to be in Des Moines, mostly to help the young guys, especially Baez. I had the tickets already (through work but nobody else ever went) and it was easy to go. So I went to the entire first 3-4 home stands. Every night game, every weekend day game, every game I could. The Chicago Cubs had sucked for a few years so might as well watch the I Cubs. I never saw the first home run as Javy struggled at the plate. He made it up to Chicago and also struggled at the plate, only hitting .169.
Javy began to develop a reputation of a bad attitude. I heard whispers, I read the stories, I bought into them. I was at the game in 2014 when Baez got into an altercation with Eli Whiteside in the dugout. I was there for a few ejections in 2014 and 2015. At that point, I almost wrote the kid off. Another “can’t miss prospect” for the Cubs that never panned out. Then Javy began to hit. He hit the seams off the ball. He was less hostile at the plate. Then he got hurt. He was playing the best baseball of his career, and dude got hurt.
Life had also been dealing Baez a bad hand. He lost his sister and best friend, far too soon, in 2015. Life has a way of turning young men, into Men with hard times. I firmly believe you learn more about life and yourself in the worst moments of life. When life hits you like a freight train, you learn a lot about the world. You learn about your place in it. You learn what truly matters in life. What truly matters to you. You learn what you need to do to get through the day in the narrow focus. In the larger picture, you learn where you actually want to go. You learn what steps you need to take to get you there. It’s not fun, its painful. Your body hurts when it is growing up. The same is said when you are mentally and emotionally growing up. This is what happened to Javy. And unlike most of us, who can hide ourselves from the world. We can log off social media and shut ourselves off from others for a while. Our mistakes are not public fodder, to be examined and over-examined in excruciating detail. The life of MLB player on one of the most popular teams in the world, is VERY public, so he was very much in the public spot light during all of this. Few fan bases are as passionate and unrealistic as Cubs fans. But, they can also be one of the most supportive, forgiving, and embracing.
Javy emerged, better than ever. His plate discipline was better than ever. His discipline off field was also, better than ever. The Cubs were the best defensive team in baseball and he was the best defender. He plays everywhere and plays it well. Only drawback of playing everywhere is you can’t win a Gold Glove. If the Cubs ever had a Gold Glover, it would be Javy Baez. More so than Maddux and Dawson. It’s not blasphemy, it’s honesty. The ninja skills were nice too. Sliding around a tag to steal a base, or vice-versa, sliding to tag a guy out trying to steal a base. Jon Lester can’t throw to 1st but David Ross, Addison Russell, and Javy Baez had his back. Jon could relax, he could focus at the plate. The Dodgers acted like Henry Rowengartner on the basepaths – dancing back and forth. Jon could just focus on home plate and throwing his pitch. It worked. He looked like the big game pitcher paid big game pitcher bucks a summer and half before. Still, it was the defense behind Jon that made this possible. Javy, was huge in this regard.
I missed his first home run, because I was working. I missed him and the Cubs clinching the World Series berth because, I was working. I did get to a TV in time to see him get the NLCS MVP, or CO-MVP with Jon Lester. Jon, is supposed to be here. He was born for this. Javy, took a different road. It wasn’t straight, but life never is. But it all ended up with a young man finding himself in life and in the game. He found his stroke. And now he finds himself in the World Series.
Javy. I doubted you. I never should have, but I did. That’s on me. The young kid has now become a young man. Not even your dropped gum can escape you. You are a bonafide superstar now. Show the World what your made of. Show the world what this team is made of.
Go Cubs Go,