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Fowler gets ring, belts leadoff HR at Wrigley

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Dexter Fowler made a triumphant return to Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, receiving his World Series ring in a pregame ceremony with the Cubs and then launching a leadoff homer in the first inning off John Lackey in the Cardinals' eventual 3-2 loss.

The contrast represented a fitting summation of the past year for Fowler. By joining forces with the rival Cardinals, Fowler knows he probably committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of some Cubs fans. But when he took the field Friday for the first time at Wrigley Field in a Cards uniform, he had a feeling he would get a pass because of the role he played in the Cubs' World Series title last season.

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CHICAGO -- Dexter Fowler made a triumphant return to Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, receiving his World Series ring in a pregame ceremony with the Cubs and then launching a leadoff homer in the first inning off John Lackey in the Cardinals' eventual 3-2 loss.

The contrast represented a fitting summation of the past year for Fowler. By joining forces with the rival Cardinals, Fowler knows he probably committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of some Cubs fans. But when he took the field Friday for the first time at Wrigley Field in a Cards uniform, he had a feeling he would get a pass because of the role he played in the Cubs' World Series title last season.

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"The fans treated me well," he said. "Everybody was still talking to me, waving to me. It was awesome, a good feeling.

"I left this place with no hard feelings. The fans showed me love."

The crowd was reminded of those accomplishments before the game when Fowler was presented with his World Series ring during an on-field ceremony. Former teammates Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward made the presentation. After Fowler put the ring on, the other Cubs players, manager Joe Maddon and front-office executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer came over to exchange hugs and handshakes.

The brief ceremony -- which began with a video tribute -- wrapped up with everyone posing for a picture with Fowler.

"You can see how we feel about him, even though he's wearing the wrong uniform," Maddon said.

Fowler received a loud ovation before and after the ceremony, as well as when he came to the plate to lead off the game.

Such ceremonies can be tough for players, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had little doubt Fowler would handle things like a professional.

"He goes about his business the same way all the time," Matheny said. "He loves life, loves the game, loves his teammates, supports his teammates, but he wants to win.

"I think it'll be a great honor for him to get that ring today. It's something that he worked hard to achieve, and this team will be out here supporting him and looking forward to doing it again, maybe, in a different colored uniform."

Whatever emotions Fowler was feeling didn't affect him by the time the game started, as evidenced by the homer -- his hardest hit of the season, at 107.5 mph, according to Statcast™ -- which reminded the crowd and the Cubs the type of spark he provided.

"I finally got it; it hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "I haven't gotten a chance to look at it. I'll probably go home and look at it."

During his pregame media session, Fowler was asked if Chicago's struggling offense misses his presence at the top of the lineup.

"That's a good team over there," he said. "I'm sure they'll figure it out. We've got a good race to the top of the NL Central."

As for the awkwardness of facing the Cubs at Wrigley, Fowler said it helps that the teams already have played six times in St. Louis. Even heading to the visitors' clubhouse wasn't strange.

"The thing is I've played here before as a visitor before going over to the home side, so it's a familiar area there," he said. "It's not like when I was at Colorado the first time coming back. I had never been on the visiting side [in Colorado]. I've seen the old [home] clubhouse over there, the new clubhouse and I'm back over here."

Following two years in Chicago, Fowler signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Cardinals in the offseason. It was more money and years than the Cubs were willing to commit, but Fowler was asked if he would have stayed with the Cubs if the money was similar.

"You never know. That's all hindsight," he said. "I'm pretty happy with the decision I made."

John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Cardinals on Friday.

St. Louis Cardinals