At first glance, you see pretty much what you’d expect to see, a lot of guys putting in hard work and long hours. Drills are constant, and — particularly among pitchers and outfielders — there is something more going on. Competition. A pile of players vying for a very few precious roster spots that could change their lives forever.
It could just be the simple desire to find a place on a team for the year, but it feels like more. Consider that several players this offseason chose the Cubs despite better offers from other teams. Think about the hype surrounding this team, and this season — over 100 years of championship drought on the verge of collapsing, and the possibility of being a member of “the team of destiny” bringing that drought to a close.
Joe Maddon is already kicking it into high gear with hippie shirts, music, and whatever magic he can spin to lighten the mood. Munenori Kawasaki has appeared in cowboy gear, and has serenaded the team. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have renewed their bromance, adopting “Grandpa” Rossy (David Ross) and beginning a chronicle of his final season on Instagram.
Vegas has the team at 4:1 odds to win it all. When was the last time saying that about the Cubs didn’t bring peals of laughter?
It’s evident in the spring training games, as well. Javier Baez, while a little nervous and wired to perform well in center, seems determined to kick it up a notch, sliding into second unprotected and head first, as if it was a playoff game on the line.
“Grandpa” Ross dove headlong, made a spectacular catch, rolled to his feet and threw a runner out at second base for an incredible double-play — the kind you expect people to strive for in October, but seldom see in a pre-season battle. He has been adamant — particularly since picking up the Grandpa monicker — that he intends to be a plus-addition to the team, and not an aging hole in the lineup. Addison Russell has been spectacular, as well so far, ignoring fears of a “sophomore slump” and belting a two-run homer way out during their matchup with the Angels.
As hard as it’s been so far for fans to make it to Opening Day, the Cubs’ players may explode from the pressure. There is never any guarantee in baseball, but it seems as if the world expects something special from this team. And every player with a shot wants to be a part of it — not just for the season, but to grab their spot in the history books. Win or lose, this season is going to be electric.