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Jason Heyward mentoring Cubs prospect Ed Howard on and off the field

9 months agoAndy Martinez

There’s a lot Ed Howard would want to learn from someone like Jason Heyward.

This offseason he’s gotten to pick the veteran’s baseball brain a little bit as he’s worked out with Heyward, Nico Hoerner, Jason Kipnis and Heyward’s younger brother, Jacob. Arguably just as important, though, Howard is learning from Heyward off the field, too.  

“He leads the way,” Howard said of Heyward. “I can learn from him and being around him is great for me.”

Case in point was last Saturday. While Howard made sure to get his hitting drills in with Heyward and co., he realized how important it was for him to give back in the community, attending the Players Alliance Pull Up Neighbor tour on Chicago’s South and West Sides.

Former major leaguer Curtis Granderson, who was among the group that founded the Players Alliance, wanted to make sure the mentorship aspect started early, so that the younger players like Howard knew they could step up and support communities and help people in need no matter where they stand in the professional baseball ladder.

“A lot of information doesn’t necessarily get to those [younger] guys until you get to the big leagues, so let’s start that earlier,” Granderson said. “The great thing about it is, he didn’t necessarily need the information from CC Sabathia or myself. Guys like [Brewers prospect] Corey Ray, who’s also from [Chicago], who is also in the minor leagues, who can help him out. And also guys just figuring out, ‘hey how can I help out and give back to the community?’”

Heyward is taking that mentorship aspect to heart. He’s taken Howard under his wing and is ready to help Howard as he begins his ascent up the baseball rung. It also helps having some similarities.

Like Howard, Heyward was drafted by his hometown Atlanta Braves and starred for five seasons in his native Atlanta.

“I think it’s just someone who can relate to playing for your hometown,” Heyward said. “There’s a lot of cool things about it, there’s a lot of things you gotta learn the way about it, just like anything.”

And in Heyward, Howard has an ideal mentor. Heyward is respected across the league and he’s known as much for his skills on the field as off it.

“I think one of the things you see with guys like Jason Heyward is not only just what they bring with a physical person, but the leadership, the role models, the things they bring into the clubhouse for the organization and the community,” Granderson said. “People talk about those intangibles that may not necessarily be quantified, but he’s a living example of it. He helped get that 2016 Cubs team to spark up and get that World Series here. He helped push the messaging and the mission of what the Players Alliance is and he’s gonna continue to do a lot more here.

“He’s home here in Chicago. He’s here when he could be in Georgia, not in this rain and mist. But he’s here because he loves everything this whole city has been about and not only the city of Chicago, but everywhere throughout the country.”

So, Heyward knows how special it’ll be if and when Howard suits up with the Cubs. And he’ll continue to mentor Howard each step of the way.

“I think for him, it’ll be pretty cool to one day have a chance to step on Wrigley, look around and be like ‘This is home,’ and really embrace that Chicago baseball culture,” Heyward said.

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