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Cubs' pregame hug routine motivates, inspires

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Before the Cubs take batting practice, strength coach Tim Buss gathers the players together for a unique bonding moment that sometimes ends with tears but always involves laughter and hugs. And it may be a contributing factor to the Cubs' success.

Someone is designated as the honoree -- it could be anybody, from infielder Tommy La Stella to first-base coach Brandon Hyde -- and then each player says something nice about that person. It isn't a prank. Instead, it's incredibly humbling.

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CHICAGO -- Before the Cubs take batting practice, strength coach Tim Buss gathers the players together for a unique bonding moment that sometimes ends with tears but always involves laughter and hugs. And it may be a contributing factor to the Cubs' success.

Someone is designated as the honoree -- it could be anybody, from infielder Tommy La Stella to first-base coach Brandon Hyde -- and then each player says something nice about that person. It isn't a prank. Instead, it's incredibly humbling.

Full Game Coverage

"They say such unbelievable things and they are sincere about it, so it's almost a little emotional," Hyde said Sunday. "You know the players care about you and you obviously love them but to have them say it in front of a group like that, and it keeps going and going and going, and after a while, you're like, 'Holy cow.'"

The players aren't the only ones featured. It's also the behind-the-scenes staff members, such as scouting coordinators Nate Halm and Tommy Hottovy, who were called out to the group before a game earlier this season. Before Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Saturday in Washington, it was traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani.

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"They say incredible compliments and give examples," Hyde said. "It's not like, 'He really works hard.' It's, 'I really appreciate the way he [does this],' and then they talk about it. And then you hug after."

Catcher Rene Rivera was a late addition to the Cubs when he was acquired off waivers Aug. 19. He also has been feted, and said the whole experience is uplifting.

"It's awesome," Rivera said. "I think it's a great way to get everybody together. We're family. We spend more time here than with our families. We have to know each other, we have to get along with each other and that's a good way to appreciate what other guys do and see on a daily basis what the other guys bring to the team. I think it's a great idea. I enjoy it every time. It's been awesome."

Rivera was surprised at the compliments he received because it showed how much his new teammates had paid attention to his career.

"They noticed some things about me and you feel good about that," Rivera said. "World Series teams, champion teams, they play together and they enjoy the game together, they lose together. This is a great way to make everybody rooting for one thing.

"The time I've been here, I think that's the engine of a good team is getting together and saying something nice about your teammate. That's the engine to go out there and have fun and play the game and win the game."

Players have sent Hyde text messages to say thank you, but to do so in a semi-public setting is something else. Hyde credited Buss with coordinating the sessions, and are more toasts than roasts.

"It's an incredible experience to have your players talk about you like that," Hyde said. "At first, I thought it would be a mess-around kind of thing, and then one after another, it was compliments, and I thought, 'This is overwhelming.' It's emotional and overwhelming."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.