Heyward proving to be a presence

April 21st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Jason Heyward jumped out of the visiting dugout. He tipped his cap and patted his chest in appreciation to the Cubs fans showing him love before the series opener in Chicago. 

Heyward didn’t start the game for the Dodgers, forcing the Cubs to play a tribute video before the start of Thursday’s game. He did, however, come in and draw a walk in a crucial spot in the ninth inning during the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over the Cubs.

“It’s always fun to come to Wrigley,” Heyward said. “It’s a baseball spot. Historic. It’s good to see it. Only thing I wish we could see is the ivy in but I know that’s a couple months away. Still good to be here.”

During his time with the Cubs, Heyward didn’t always put up the best offensive numbers. His highest OPS during a full season was .772 in ‘19. Heyward did, however, bring home two Gold Glove Awards in the outfield.

But the reason Heyward is still beloved in Chicago isn’t only because of what he did on the field. Heyward was looked at as one of the leaders on the curse-breaking team. His most famous moment, of course, was the speech he gave to the team during the rain delay in Game 7. Heyward also did a lot of good for the Cubs as they went on the rebuild that followed.

The ending wasn’t as perfect as everybody hoped, but it did create a new beginning in Los Angeles. And just two months into his tenure with the Dodgers, Heyward is already making a positive impact.

On the field, Heyward is still looking for consistency after the extensive swing changes he made in the offseason. Heyward has four hits this season, three of them home runs.

But he has helped a lot of the younger players in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, particularly James Outman, who continued his scorching start at the plate this season with two homers against the Cubs, including a game-winning grand slam.

Those are the types of things the Dodgers hoped they were getting from Heyward when they signed him to a Minors deal back in December. But his leadership and presence has exceeded everyone's expectations.

“I think he’s just brought humility,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s brought professionalism, experience and gratitude. I think part of it is innate. Some of it is learned, as far as the experience part. And I think that’s something that has really impacted our team really immediately.”