I try not to get too emotionally hooked into individual players on my favorite professional sports teams. That seems like a strange statement from someone who gave his youngest daughter the middle name of a former Chicago Cubs second baseman, but I’m more about the team itself than its players.
But, then 2016 happened.
How can you not get the feels for the players that brought the Cubs franchise its first World Series championship in more than a century? After being a fan of a team that gave you heartbreak after heartbreak for sixty years of fandom, how can you not get emotionally hooked on the men who gave you your greatest sports thrill?
I usually look at professional athletes like a business, almost like the front office of the team they play for does. My hope is we get the best years of the player’s career. Then they trade them when they start to regress for players that will also give us their best years. It usually works in theory, but then came yesterday.
The Cubs traded Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees.
I remember when the Cubs made the trade for Rizzo with the San Diego Padres, on January 6, 2012. They gave up pitcher Andrew Cashner. My brother who lives in San Diego was excited to get the pitcher for someone he called the next Dave Kingman. He predicted lots of home runs and lots of strikeouts. I told him I’d love for Rizzo to hit more than four hundred home runs. Anthony didn’t make it to that number, but he gave us so much more.
Rizzo was the one that went through the losing part of the rebuilding of the franchise. He was the one that scored the winning run in game seven. He was the one that caught the final throw from Kris Bryant that clinched the title. He was the one that the team should have carried off the field in victory. Anthony Rizzo was the face of the franchise.
But, he was far more than a champion baseball player. Anthony Rizzo is a championship human. His foundation has raised millions of dollars for childhood cancer research. And Rizzo not only raises money, but he also puts in the time. Many times we’ve seen him visiting a child fighting cancer at a hospital. He’s won many awards for his community service, but you get the feeling he’d be doing the same thing if there were no awards given or cameras around.
The photo at the top was taken in the spring of 2017. It was only a few months after the Cubs won the World Series. We were still basking in the glory of their victory. I walked into my local Jewel grocery store and Rizzo was doing a promotion. It was the release day for Rizzo cereal. Anthony was there to shill for the product with his face on the box. The cereal itself wasn’t bad, maybe a little too sweet, but the profits from its sale were going for childhood cancer research. That was sweeter than the cereal itself.
Seriously, with all of that, how can you not love this guy?
When I heard about yesterday’s trade, my first thought was the Cubs did pretty good. The prospects they received in return seem to be okay. Maybe one of the two will turn out to be pretty good somewhere down the road….we’ll see. But, when you add up what he’s done for the team and its fans with his contributions to the cancer charity, his leaving hurt more than other beloved players who have been traded.
So to Anthony Rizzo, thanks for everything and we’ll see you on the other side….and by that I mean the south side of Chicago when the Yankees play the White Sox in a couple of weeks. Go Yankees….nah, can’t quite go that far.