Cubs outfielder Ian Happ caps off career season with Gold Glove
After a strong finish in the second half of 2021, Ian Happ wanted to work on becoming a more consistent player for the course of a full, 162-game season. In that process he didn’t just become more consistent — he turned into a more complete player.
And the rest of the league took notice.
Happ was named the NL Gold Glove recipient in left field Tuesday afternoon, winning the award for the first time in his career. The 28-year-old beat out Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich and Arizona/Tampa Bay’s David Peralta for the award. The Gold Glove is another achievement in a big year for Happ, who was named an All-Star this season for the first time in his career.
“I think this kind of completes the package of feeling like you’re a really well rounded player in this league and have just the ability to impact the baseball on both sides,” Happ said. “It’s been a long road on both sides of the ball, but definitely defensively with all the different positions. Finding a home and feeling like not only are you able to play there everyday, but you’re able to make an impact and do so in a positive way and have this kind of recognition is really cool.”
Happ becomes the fourth Cubs outfielder to win the award, joining Jason Heyward (2016-17), Andrew Dawson (1987-88) and Bob Dernier (1984). He’s the first Cub to win a Gold Glove since Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo won at shortstop and first base, respectively, in 2020.
Early in September, Happ thought of the possibility of the award, but tried not to get too far ahead of himself.
“That’d be really cool,” Happ said. “We’ve still got a lot of baseball left. You come to work every day and do your job and you look at that stuff at the end of the year. But honestly, that’s one of those honors I thought about a lot as a kid when I was playing shortstop – not as much as a left fielder. But it would be really cool.”
So what would that little kid think of the award?
“Little kid Ian would probably be wondering why I’m playing left field and not shortstop, but his expectations were pretty high,” Happ said with a laugh.
As a kid, Happ would spend his time consuming baseball highlights. Yes, Barry Bonds and the home run craze of the early 2000s was fantastic and a blast, but for Happ, there was nothing like seeing the slick-fielding Omar Vizquel play defense and man shortstop.
“I grew up watching Omar Vizquel highlights and thinking that his accomplishments with the glove were the coolest thing in baseball,” Happ said.
He was so obsessed, he needed to have the exact same glove that Vizquel used on the diamond.
“A 9¾ [glove] that I had no business wearing,” Happ said with a smile.
Now, he bears a Gold Glove Award with his name on it, just like Vizquel. Happ had 8 assists and 13 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs.
“It’s a blessing to have a guy like that in left field where he’s looking for the big play,” Adrian Sampson said in September.
Happ was named the Cubs everyday left fielder this season and for the first time in his career and owned the position, playing 1233.1 of his 1245.1 defensive innings this season in left.
“We put him in left and he’s owned that,” manager David Ross said in September. “He’s one of the best left fielders in the game.”