Willson Contreras’ All-Star selection highlights his growth on, off field
Way back in Spring Training, David Ross knew that the addition of the designated hitter and the Cubs signing of Yan Gomes would benefit Willson Contreras.
“Gives us a luxury, making sure we take care of Willson’s legs,” Ross said back in late March. “He’s had a lot of lower body injuries over his career so making sure that we take care of his health and keeping him fresh is gonna be really important for our success I believe.”
Friday night, Ross was proven right — Contreras was named the National League starter at catcher at the All-Star Game. Being able to DH Contreras, rest him and not have him catch every single day has played a pivotal role in that — but it’s also led to him evolving as a complete player.
“We play as many day games as anybody in the league, so that turnaround time for your body to recover is just really difficult,” Ross told reporters on Friday in Los Angeles. “With the DH implemented, I think what you really seen is just a fresher player — a guy that’s been able to have his legs underneath him consistently and you the production he’s putting up.”
This season has been successful on the field for Contreras, but it’s also been fruitful for him off it. Contreras has prided himself on being even keel and a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse.
“Being the same guy every day, no matter if my numbers are good or not, I think I have matured in and off the field a lot,” Contreras told Taylor McGregor before Friday’s game against the Dodgers. “I [am] trying to set an example of how things can be done.
“So, you have to understand that a lot of times you’re gonna win a lot of times you’re gonna lose, and you have to understand that everybody is doing their job to make this team better.”
As his manager, Ross appreciates that guidance that Contreras has provided for a Cubs team mixed with young players and veterans.
“I think just communicating with the younger players, with his teammates in meetings, speaking up, using his experience, all those things have seemed to grow slowly since I’ve been his manager,” Ross said. “He wants to help every … I’ve seen him be able to take those moments of failure and just turn the page a lot quicker.”
When there is success — and there’s been a lot of it this season for Contreras — it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Ross was a teammate when Contreras first came up to the big leagues, then was a special assistant in the early years of his career and, now, is his manager as he heads to his third All-Star Game.
“It’s as good as I’ve seen Willson,” Ross said. “Pretty rare company in Cubs history, too with starting his third all-star game. Special day for him, for us. Happy for him.”