Cubs News

Jason Heyward’s Cubs legacy carries on as he returns to Chicago for first time with Dodgers

1 year agoTim Stebbins

After the sky above Wrigley Field finally cleared and even turned a nice orange color, Jason Heyward stepped out of the dugout to the music of cheers from Cubs fans.

That was hardly a first for the veteran outfielder, who spent the last seven seasons with the Cubs, but it was certainly different. An appreciative crowd was welcoming Heyward back to Chicago for the first time as a Los Angeles Dodger.

“It’s always fun to come to Wrigley,” Heyward said before Thursday’s game. “It’s a baseball spot, historic. Good to see it. The only thing I wish we would see is the ivy, but I know that’s a couple months away. Still good to be here.

Heyward’s baseball future was murky the last time anyone saw him at Wrigley. He met Chicago media for the final time as a Cub in September, before the organization officially parted ways with him in the offseason.

Even Heyward that day was unsure what opportunities would be out there for him in the offseason, but he knew he’d be back at Clark and Addison eventually.

“Well, I’m a [Chicago] resident,” Heyward quipped Thursday. “I knew at some point, God willing, I would see Wrigley again. That might have been walking the dogs out here in the outfield. But it’s really cool to be able to do that as an outfielder for the Dodgers.”

Heyward’s offensive struggles during his time with the Cubs are well-documented, and the minor-league deal he signed with Los Angeles was a lifeline of sorts for his career.

But just as documented is his impact on the Cubs organization going beyond the batter’s box — from his defense to his clubhouse leadership and efforts off the field within the community. The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy opened this February in the Austin neighborhood

His reputation has held strong in Los Angeles.

“I think he’s just brought humility,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s brought professionalism, experience and gratitude. I think that part of it is innate. Some of it is learned, as far as the experience part of perspective.

“I think that’s something that really impacted our team, really, immediately.” 

This weekend’s four-game series isn’t the Cubs and Heyward’s first reunion this season; the Cubs played a three-game series at Dodger Stadium last weekend, and the two teams gathered for a Jackie Robinson Day celebration.

That night, Heyward robbed Nico Hoerner with a nice leaping catch in center field in Los Angeles’ 2-1 win over the Cubs.

“He was definitely someone who showed me the ropes of just handling baseball at this level and all that goes into it beyond the skill sets that we all have as players,” Hoerner said of Heyward’s impact in Chicago. “But more so how it impacts relationships, what it means for time management life, how to take care of yourself, and he was incredibly generous throughout.”

Cubs manager David Ross and Heyward were teammates in Atlanta for three seasons and for another in Chicago in 2016. Heyward famously paid for Ross and his family to have a hotel suite on road trips the entire season —  Ross’ last as a player —  and was a veteran leader in the clubhouse the last three seasons under Ross, the manager.

“He’s done a lot of nice things for me and my family,” Ross said. “He’s a brother. He’s a brother for life. World Series connected, one of my favorite people on the planet. Glad he’s back here.”

Heyward said he doesn’t feel any extra incentive to perform well this weekend and plans to treat it like any other. And even though he’s on the other side, he said it felt normal to be at Wrigley. He even entered through the home players’ entrance prior to Monday’s game. 

He wasn’t in the starting lineup for Thursday’s opener — Roberts said Heyward will start Saturday and Sunday — but pinch-hit in the 8th inning, getting a nice reception from Cubs fans, and drew a walk. That set up a go-ahead grand slam by Dodgers outfielder James Outman one batter later in a 6-2 Dodgers win.

Heyward is the latest member of the Cubs’ 2016 championship team to return to Wrigley after departing the Cubs. In fact, he and Ross were the only members of that team there; Kyle Hendricks, the last man from 2016 still on the Cubs, is on the injured list.

As strange as that may seem, Heyward chalked it up to being part of the game of baseball.

“My first three years in the big leagues [with Atlanta], we had really good teams, and they kind of dismantled that pretty quickly,” Heyward said. “So, it’s part of the game. The fact that there is the business side of things and time does happen. 

“That’s why I wanted to sign with the Cubs, because I knew I was gonna be with a group for at least five, six years, see where that put us. It put us, I feel like, in a really good spot.”

Years later, Heyward and others’ Chicago legacies are secured.

“We made some history here together, [did] a lot of special things.”

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