Happ's 'wild ride' leads to All-Star nod with Contreras

July 11th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Cubs manager David Ross slow played a winning hand Sunday, gathering the team in the clubhouse before its series finale against the Dodgers to talk about upcoming travel details.

He milked the room’s rapt attention with the ins and outs of All-Star break air travel, before finally getting to the upcoming itinerary of one player in particular: Ian Happ.

Ross delivered the news Sunday that Happ was named a National League All-Star reserve, the first time the six-year player had been so honored. The room erupted in applause. Happ broke into tears.

“It’s just years of hard work and everything that goes into it,” Happ said of his emotions. “You think of all the people that have helped along the way: family, friends. I got super emotional talking to my family. I don’t know. It hasn’t set in, but I don’t know if I can contain those [emotions] much.”

Happ will be an All-Star teammate with Willson Contreras, who was named starting catcher on Friday.

“He told me a couple of days ago, when I was able to announce Willson, that if he happens to make the team, don't tell him in front of everybody because he will cry like a baby,” Ross said. “So I couldn’t wait to give the news in front of everybody. That’s how it works.”

As predicted, Happ put his face into his hands while sitting in the chair in front of his locker and let the emotions spill out.

The release of joy was understandable. Happ was adrift around this time last season, batting .183 in the first half with a .626 OPS. He spun that into a .268 average and .886 OPS in the second half with 16 home runs then continued the momentum in 2022, batting .276 with an .818 OPS through Sunday’s game.

“When were [in Los Angeles] last year, Rossy called me in the office and basically said I wasn’t going to play in the series much, that I’d be coming off the bench because I was struggling so bad, and I cried in his office,” Happ said. “And to have that come full circle … baseball is a wild ride.”

Ross also marveled at the timeline. Being swept in a four-game series at Los Angeles over the weekend was miserable, but the team was competitive and one of his key players got one of the best honors in baseball.

“Everybody recognizes how valuable he is on a daily basis with consistency,” Ross said. “I know that, his teammates know that, but to get publicly rewarded for it is freaking awesome, and to give him that news is one of the great parts of this job.”