A winning connection: Why Nico Hoerner felt it was right time to extend with the Cubs
Tucked away in a shelf at the top of his locker at Wrigley Field, Nico Hoerner keeps a special pair of batting gloves.
They’re blue and white gloves that feature figures of Anthony Rizzo’s dog, Kevin, in them as a “hot dog.” The gloves are special, like the locker that also belonged to Rizzo when he played for the Cubs.
“Just as a little reminder of like, what was there before,” Hoerner said. “Stuff like that, it really does matter. And it changes fast. I think it’s not something to forget.”
Hoerner hopes to serve as a bridge from the Cubs’ most successful run in franchise history to the next chapter, one that he hopes is as successful. It’s part of what went into the decision to sign a 3-year contract extension with the team that drafted him in the 1st round of the 2018 draft.
“It’s just an appreciation of what was here before you,” Hoerner said. “I think that’s a huge part of baseball in general. It’s a game of history and tradition.”
When Hoerner first arrived in the big leagues in 2019, that tradition had been built on winning. Over the last season and a half, that wasn’t necessarily the case. But this offseason, the Cubs signed five players with a World Series ring — Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, Cody Bellinger, Edwin Ríos and his double-play partner, Dansby Swanson.
As the Cubs turn a page in 2023, Hoerner believes that winning has returned to the forefront.
“The idea of extending yourself in an organization where you probably didn’t see winning on the horizon, that’s not very attractive to me,” Hoerner said. “So yes, it is a vote of confidence in the direction that the team is going.”
All offseason, the talk around extensions centered on Hoerner and his good friend Ian Happ. Less than 24 hours before the season began, the Cubs had officially extended Hoerner, cementing his future with the team. But there were moments over the last five months where the extension wasn’t a formality. He was in no rush to sign an extension.
“There was definitely many points in this process where I had a full peace of mind that we weren’t going to get something done and it was going to continue,” Hoerner said. “I was OK with that. It is still very early in my career early in the process, we had more years till free agency, and I wasn’t going to do something unless it was something I was really excited about.”
The big-league team excited him. The organization excited him. The fanbase, especially, excited him.
And for the next four years, there’s no questions about where he’ll be — manning second base for the Chicago Cubs.
“In the offseason, it’s easy to get so focused on your game, and you show up and there’s all these people that care that much about the organization and where the team is going and enjoying that day,” Hoerner said. “It keeps the most important parts of the game right at the front and center. I’m so grateful for that as a player. It’s an amazing thing to get to play in front of these fans and for this organization.”