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‘Such an honor’: Ben Zobrist blown away by Shōta Imanaga’s tribute with Cubs

1 month agoTony Andracki

Shōta Imanaga wasted no time endearing himself to Cubs fans at his introductory press conference Friday afternoon.

In what became the unofficial kickoff to the 37th annual Cubs Convention, Imanaga began by addressing fans in English: “Hey Chicago, what do you say? Cubs gonna win today!”

Imanaga also made sure to pay homage to those that wore the Cubs uniform before him.

The left-handed pitcher wore uniform No. 21 in Japan but as he came over to America, he decided he wanted to try something new. In his research of the Cubs, he concluded that he wanted to have an impact on the organization similar to that of Ben Zobrist and ultimately chose to wear No. 18 in honor of the 2016 World Series MVP.

Zobrist hopped on the Cubs Weekly Podcast Saturday at the Convention and shared his perspective of Imanaga’s gesture.

“It means a lot,” Zobrist said. “What happened was a couple days ago, I got a phone call from one of my agents – same agency [Octagon] with Shota. They said, ‘hey, Shota wanted us to communicate to you that he [wants to choose] No. 18.’ And he wanted to know if I’m OK with it kind of a thing. I was like, ‘of course, he doesn’t have to get my OK.’

“But he just had some really nice things to say and I saw what he said at the press conference yesterday. Such an honor. Coming from an honor culture – the Japanese culture – and for him to say that about me, it means even more probably that he went out of his way and said that. It was very kind of him to say that.”

Zobrist played with the Cubs from 2016-19 and represented a major piece to the puzzle that pulled the roster together during the World Series run. He had a tremendous impact on his teammates, the organization and, of course, the fanbase.

Still, Zobrist wasn’t expecting it when he received the phone call from his agency.

“I was really surprised,” Zobrist said. “First of all, yay! Great that [Imanaga’s] signing. But second of all, it’s not my number. It’s the Cubs’ number. But I’ve been blessed to be able to wear it and use it.

“I’ll always have the memories of wearing this jersey and when I get to come back, I still get to wear it. I look forward to him doing great things on the field.”

Imanaga signed a 4-year, $53 million to join the Cubs rotation ahead of the 2024 season.

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