Saturday Cubs Notes: Heyward’s Leadership on Display, Pederson’s Prep, What It Takes to Become a Pitching Prospect, Helping Lost Boyz

You ever wake up and realize that your brain just doesn’t want to shift out of first gear? Regular readers may believe that’s usually the case for me, so maybe that means I’m just idling in neutral this morning. As such, I’m only going to touch briefly on a few interesting topics that have popped up recently.

The first of those is Jason Heyward’s leadership, something that has been evident from the infamous rain delay speech but that has since taken hold in more than just the clubhouse. Heyward now lives in Chicago year-round and is very active with various causes both in the community and nationwide.

Though it was small in the grand scheme of things, Heyward actually calling Joc Pederson to welcome the former Dodger to the team was a very cool gesture. Pederson said Friday that several players texted him, which he said was “super pro,” but that Heyward was the first person to reach out with a phone call.

That’s quite a bit less jarring than Kris Bryant receiving a random text welcoming him to the Mets.

Pederson already seems like a great fit with the team from a personality standpoint, but his role on the roster is a little more questionable. His poor performance against lefties led other teams to pursue him as a platoon bat, which is why the Cubs’ offer of the everyday gig in left enticed him to join them for less money over just one guaranteed season.

With that in mind, the 28-year-old former All-Star has been working hard to improve his splits in order to make good on his role.

“The work that he’s been putting in now, you can see he wants to try and seize that opportunity,” hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said Friday. “No different from what anybody else is doing in the major leagues trying to get an everyday job. Just the competitive awareness and the spirit that he brings to the thing, you’re like, ‘OK.’”

When it comes to awareness and willingness to change, there may not be a better example in the entire system than righty pitching prospect Max Bain. Lightly recruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, the 6-foot-6 righty was signed by the Cubs out of independent ball in January of last year.

The pandemic has prevented him from pitching any competitive innings in 2020, but no one used that downtime to greater advantage than Bain. He transformed his body and mind, giving himself over wholly to the process of becoming an elite pitcher.

That led to him losing around 50 pounds while gaining several ticks on a fastball that now approaches triple digits. He shared a very small part of his journey on Twitter recently, saying it took a “complete abandonment of everything I knew to be true in regards to pitching, an overwhelming overhaul of my work ethic, admitting I knew nothing, and starting from scratch.” And that’s just the start.

Bain is absolutely going to be someone to watch this spring and summer and could really make some noise as people get their first look at him. If you want to hear more about him, check out his appearance on the Growing Cubs podcast from this past October.

We now transition into our final topic, which relates in terms of learning to throw harder. My son has been working throughout the winter to develop his velocity, not always a simple task for a 12-year-old who’s growing into his body, and we wanted to come up with a way to turn that work into something that would have a greater impact.

That led us to the idea of a fundraiser for Lost Boyz Inc. in Chicago, an organization using baseball to lift up the South Shore neighborhood. In just under a week, my son is going to throw 50 pitches and take 100 swings to see how many of them exceed 50 mph. We are taking per-pitch/swing pledges and flat donations, all of which will go to Lost Boyz to help facilitate their trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City this summer.

Cubs Insider is matching all donations up to $500 and we’re close to reaching that mark already. As of post time, we’ve received $325 in flat donations with $4 per unit in pledges. Assuming 30-40 units, we’re going to be well over $800 when all is said and done. If you have any interest in donating, you can do so via PayPal (dealtman at gmail dot com) or Venmo (EvanAltman36) or you can let me know what you’d like to pledge and I’ll give you the damage next week.

Please consider taking 16 minutes of your day to watch this video about Lost Boyz and their founder, LaVont’e Stewart Sr. And hey, if you’d prefer to simply donate directly to the cause, you can do so at the link above.

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