Cubs outfielder wishes Happ-y Mother's Day

May 8th, 2020

CHICAGO -- remembers how his mom did her best to make sure work did not get in the way of attending a baseball tournament. Whether travel ball took him up to Michigan, over to Virginia or just to another town in their home state of Pennsylvania, she was there.

"In between games she'd be sitting in the minivan with the A/C on," Happ said with a laugh, "either writing a dissertation or grading student papers."

Just being there is something Happ truly appreciates about his mom, Dr. Mary Beth Happ. That has made the past six weeks tough for the outfielder, who was planning to see his mom on Opening Day at Wrigley Field and then probably again when the Cubs were scheduled to hit the road to Happ's native Pittsburgh for a mid-April series.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has erased the early portion of the original regular-season schedule. And so, while Happ continues to train and prepare for baseball, his mom is still keeping busy working. Dr. Happ is an associate dean of research and innovation at the Ohio State University's college of nursing and among those working against the crisis.

"She's putting together a bunch of grants," Happ explained, "and working at the research angle of it, more so than on the front lines."

As an example, Dr. Happ is a member of the Patient Provider Comminication Forum COVID-19 Task Force, which is "a multidisciplinary group of nurses and speech language pathologists with expertise in communication science," via the American Thoracic Society's website.

While she works back in Columbus, Ohio, Happ is currently living and training in an Arizona house, alongside Cubs players Nico Hoerner, Zack Short and Dakota Mekkes. One thing they have done with their down time has been to start a podcast called, "The Compound." For Mother's Day, they plan on having their moms on as guests as his way of paying tribute to her and other moms.

"We'll get good stories from when we were younger and just say thank you and say happy Mother's Day to everybody out there," Happ said. "It's probably the longest we've all ever been away from our moms, without seeing them. For me, it was the middle of March the last time I saw my mom."

Back in 2017, Happ's mom traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to see Happ on the road with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs shortly before Mother's Day. Happ has an uncle that lives there, so they planned a family trip around the series. Besides his mom, Happ's brother came out, too.

After Happ went 3-for-5 on May 12 (a Friday), he got the call into the manager's office. He was going to the big leagues. That night, Happ's uncle and brother waited for him at the ballpark, but his mom went back to the house where they were staying. That gave Happ the opportunity to surprise his mom with the news, and then plan a a new trip to St. Louis.

"That 2017 Mother's Day, I don't think I'll ever top," Happ said. "That's about as good a Mother's Day and as good a gift, and being able to tell her in person. A lot of people don't get that opportunity. A lot of people have to make a phone call to their family to let them know. I was really lucky to have some of the people closest to me actually with me."

The next day in St. Louis -- the Saturday before Mother's Day -- Happ launched a home run in the seventh inning for his first hit in the Majors in his debut. He gave the pink-accented jersey and that game's lineup card to his mom, who was in the stands. Then, on Mother's Day, Happ went on to collect a pair of hits off Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright.

That entire weekend was an emotional whirlwind for the Happ family, given the backdrop of the previous two years.

In October 2015, Happ's father, Keith, passed away after a battle with brain cancer. Happ was extremely close with his dad, who did have one chance to watch his son hit in Wrigley Field. After the Cubs took Happ in the first round of the '15 MLB Draft, they invited Keith Happ to watch his son take batting practice with the big league team before heading to the Minor Leagues.

That meant the world to Ian Happ, who chuckled when asked if his mom ever took a turn putting on a baseball glove for a round of catch.

"Nope. That was always Dad's responsibility," he said. "She was a cheerleader in high school, so she had some bounce to her. But the hand-eye was never there. The hand-eye came from the dad's side."

Maybe so, but Happ's mom was always there -- when he was young and still now -- for whatever else he needed. Happ does not take that for granted.

"I've just been able to lean on her through everything," Happ said. "She's an extremely strong woman that I've learned so much from and I'm so proud of all her accomplishments. Just being able to share all of my success and having her by my side through all of it has been so important for me."