I first became emotionally invested in Ian Happ’s performance during the Arizona Fall League. The kid is immersed, and goes about his business in a very professional way. He seems adept at blocking out background distractions, and was learning the ropes on how to handle the media. All that served him well as he opened eyes during spring training and began pounding the ball for the AAA Iowa Cubs.
The Big League Cubs are off to a rough start and, to hear their manager tell it, they’re lucky to be a .500 team a month into the season. With position players struggling or banged up, the timing was right for Ian to be called up. One can only imagine the pressure to perform in front of family flown in and a healthy representation of Cubs fans in the stands at the sold out New Busch. He immediately jumped into the frying pan, starting in right field and batting second, with Manager Maddon dispensing the advice to enjoy the moment, have fun, and not change anything he’s been doing. Easier said than done.
I wasn’t there, but I was as nervous as if I were in the stands. Even with ice water in his veins, Ian struck out his first time up. The second time he looked more confident, and patiently drew a walk. The third time up he reached base on an error by the Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Carpenter but, on a Busch call, was ruled out at second base for interference when he slid through and beyond the bag. We can only speculate on what was going through Ian’s mind as the run scored on the play by Kyle Schwarber was erased.
But then, in the 7th inning, Ian redeemed himself big time. Joining an elite coterie of players who homered in their first major league games, Ian barreled up the first pitch into the right field stands where it was promptly retrieved by a Cardinals fan. Take that, Mighty Casey — there is joy in Cubville! Though it was disappointing that the Cubs didn’t win, a potential new star is on the horizon.
Ian was quoted before the game as saying that he might wake up tomorrow and not remember what happened. He was trying to slow everything down, to be in the moment. Well, just in case there’s any amnesia in the morning, here’s some photo-documetation as seen on the little screen.
By the way — that was the slide sequence at second base on Ian’s second time up after drawing a walk. Here is the controversial “interference slide” sequence into second base after Ian reached first on an error his third time up.
And now, drum roll please …
And what of the Cardinals fan who retrieved Ian’s first major league home run ball? Present it to Ian’s mom, of course. Happy Mother’s Day, Mary Beth!