Jason Heyward Officially Announced as a Cub at Introductory Press Conference, Cites Fun and Winning as Reasons He Signed
As trite and corny as it sounds, I love seeing newly-announced members of a baseball team try on their new jersey and hat. Weird, right. I mean, I don’t even like New Jersey itself, not even when Della wears it. But there’s something cool about seeing a guy buttoning that uniform over a button-down shirt, like seeing Superman and Clark Kent in the same frame. The shirt and tie represent the grown man, the jersey the child’s game he’s being paid a king’s ransom to play.
That’s particularly fitting for Jason Heyward, a man who’s young even by the standards of a sport where 30 seems over the hill but who still boasts six full years of Major League experience. Heyward seemed very much at ease, suit and tie peeking out from the top of his jersey as he sat flanked by the authors of the Cubs comic book. As with any press conference, this was not devoid of cliches and platitudes, but we did get confirmation of Heyward’s thought process in choosing the Cubs, along with the club’s reason for pursuing him.
Among other things, the Gold Glover cited the winning attitude and culture he saw in Chicago, saying that he wanted a team that he could be a part of and that he could grow up with. He noted that, being only 26 years old himself, finding a team that could be like family played a big role in his decision. Whether the team was good or bad, Heyward said he always noticed how the city gets behind the Chicago Cubs.
He went on to admit that, while there wasn’t really one pitch in particular that resonated, he really liked the way the Cubs went about their business from the top down. He talked a lot about having fun playing the game, and how he saw that in the rivals who have now become his teammates. Getting to play every day at the Friendly Confines didn’t hurt either.
“I don’t know if you’ve followed my career since 2010,” the newest Cub said, “but I’ve had a little fun playing at Wrigley Field.”
While his first experience with the Cubs didn’t come at Wrigley, it’s easy to see why Heyward would have good memories of playing against them. After all, he blasted a three-run homer off of Carlos Zambrano on the very first swing of his very first MLB at-bat.
“What a ride it’s been [since],” The J-Hey Kid reminisced, “I’m blessed to play the game I love for a living.”
For the past year, he’d been blessed to play that game on a cloud in baseball heaven, but his decision to go with the Cubs over the Cardinals left many in St. Louis feeling a bit salty. Asked about the vitriol from those who had so recently cheered him on, Heyward was very diplomatic, praising the Cardinals organization from top to bottom. He even rationalized some of the idiocy that’s had us cringing since Friday’s news came out.
“If someone’s not gonna miss you leaving,” he reasoned, “I don’t feel you did your job the right way.”
While I suppose it’d be easier to take the high road when you can afford to drive in style, I was impressed by Heyward’s tact in addressing what could have been a volatile topic. He was able to answer the question fairly and to diffuse any real issues moving forward. That theme of forward progress was a big one for the presser in general. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer spoke about Heyward’s role in that, saying that he’s a guy who makes players around him better as the pursue bigger things.
Huh, sounds kinda like they’re saying he’s a glue guy. There was something Heyward mentioned late in the event that may have flown a bit under the radar but that I took notice of right away. He acknowledged that while, yes, it’d be beautiful to win a World Series with the Cubs — he actually said it’s a no-brainer that it’d be amazing — his mindset is to always to go out and win. Sure, that’s something we’ve heard thousands of times before, but that’s really the approach the Cubs need to have now.
This isn’t a team that can afford to get all googly-eyed at the prospect of winning when the lights are brightest. Fans can certainly feel free to do so, but in guys like Heyward, John Lackey, and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs have added to the core of players who can act like they’ve been there before because, well, they’ve been there before.
Heyward displayed an easy-going confidence as he talked about the free agency process and how it all transpired. He said it came down to Theo and Jed reaching out to his reps and that he was happy to simply let everything play out.
“My job is to relax,” Heyward explained. “At 26 years old, I didn’t think I was going to have too much trouble finding a job.”
No, sir, I guess you didn’t. Ah, but what exactly will that job be? The former Cardinal was noncommittal in terms of both where he’d prefer to be in either the outfield or the lineup, but said he’d perfectly happy playing center or right. For that kind of cheddar, he’d better be happy no matter what, amirite? In all seriousness though, I’m sure this is a conversation that has been had at some level. To his credit, Heyward sounded content to let the process play out through the offseason and Spring Training.
As the press conference wound down, a reporter asked Heyward how he felt about being a final piece in what Epstein and Hoyer have built in Chicago.
“I don’t know about ‘final piece,'” he admitted. “I’m happy to be a part of it though.”
I’d say the feeling’s mutual.