In a year full of firsts, Cubs rookies Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel continue to push each other
MILWAUKEE — When Nelson Velázquez walked into the Cubs dugout at American Family Field on Monday after his first career home run, teammate Christopher Morel was so excited, he didn’t know what to do.
“I didn’t know if I should kiss him, hug him, but I was happy, too,” Morel said with a smile from ear to ear. “Honestly, I celebrated as if I had hit it because since we started, we’ve been together.”
But Morel’s celebration was slightly short-lived.
“Every year we have a bet so that we can motivate ourselves, like, let’s keep going,” Morel said.
So what’s the bet? Whoever hits the most home runs this year — minors and majors — will win a free dinner, courtesy of the loser. With Velázquez’s first big-league homer, he’s taken a lead this season with 16 to Morel’s 15. Last season, Velázquez won the wager and had a steak dinner, courtesy of Morel.
“Honestly, he’s got his first, but we’re gonna keep fighting until the year is over,” Morel said.
Monday was a day Velázquez had dreamed about since he was a little kid growing up in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
“It was a beautiful moment for me,” he said. “A lot of emotions. I don’t really express my emotions too much, but inside myself I was so happy. I was really — I was smiling. I said to myself, ‘you did it.’”
Immediately after the game, Velázquez had text messages and direct messages on Instagram from his parents, his girlfriend, former coaches, family members and friends congratulating him on the home run. He got the ball back after the game, too.
“I will give it to my mom and dad so they can put it in their room,” Velázquez said. “They can have that memory. To have it in my house, my first home run in the big leagues, that’s what I want to do with it.”
Morel wasn’t the only teammate excited to see him notch the first home run of his career.
For a few days, Justin Steele had been going up to Velázquez and asking him when he was going to hit his first home run.
“‘Hey I’m going to. I’m going to hit it one day,” Velázquez would tell him.
That one day happened to be when Steele was starting. So, when Velázquez returned to the dugout after his home run trot, Steele congratulated him on finally notching his first big league home run.
“I said, ‘thank you, man. I did it for you, too,’” Velázquez said.
And Morel had some praise for him, too.
“When we were sitting down, I said, ‘see, the first one fell,” Morel said “’The other ones are going to come easier.’”