Russell adds impressive blast to young resume

Shortstop fires up Wrigley Field in Cubs' home-opening win

April 12th, 2016

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell is 22 years old, and the third-youngest player in the National League. Cubs manager Joe Maddon can't wait to see what the young shortstop is like when he grows up.

"He's going to keep getting better," Maddon said of Russell, who delivered a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning Monday night to lift the Cubs to a 5-3 win over the Reds. "Just wait to see what he looks like when he's 25.

"To be able to take a walk, power a ball into the left-field stands, his whole game is going to keep improving because he's strong and he cares and he works pretty hard," Maddon said. "Just appreciate that he's only 22 and what he's doing now."

Jason Heyward, who made his big league debut at the age of 20, definitely appreciates what Russell is doing.

"He's got great talent," Heyward said. "He's young. I've been there. I've been in his position. He plays a tough position on the diamond. He never takes a play off and that's huge, and that says a lot about his character. I've told him, many of us have told him, we're going to be fine, we're going to be good. It was a huge at-bat there."

The Cubs trailed 3-2 in the eighth, and had two on and one out when Jumbo Diaz entered the game. He threw a 95 mph fastball to Russell, and he launched it into the left-field bleachers.

"I just wanted to go up there and see something straight and make hard contact, and he threw me a fastball and I hit it out," Russell said.

The win in the Cubs' home opener gave the players a chance to officially christen the postgame party room in the new clubhouse.

"The party room is good and it's in effect," Russell said with a smile.

He was smiling after the home run, too.

"Once I hit the ball, I kind of knew it was gone," Russell said. "I normally don't pimp home runs but it's opening night, we're down, and the occasion called for it."

He didn't do too much to offend Diaz or the Reds after hitting the homer, his first of the season. Once he got to the Cubs dugout, Russell was overwhelmed by hugs from his teammates. His three RBIs tied a career high, which he has done five times, most recently on Sept. 7.

"I was just smiling, and trying to soak it in as much as I could, and trying to round the bases slow," Russell said of his home run trot. "My heart was beating a lot. Once I stepped on the plate, it was an awesome feeling to see [Jorge] Soler and [Ben Zobrist] there. It was a great game for all of us tonight."