Contreras bids farewell to Cubs fans in last home game

October 3rd, 2022

CHICAGO -- After the final out of Sunday's game at Wrigley Field, Cubs players and coaches emerged from the dugout and waved to fans as a show of appreciation following the last home game of the year.  stayed put after his teammates left the field.

Contreras donned his catcher's mitt and began walking slowly toward home plate, stopping every few steps to look around and raise a hand to the cheering crowd. There have been a few potential farewells for Chicago's long-time catcher, but this one seemed to come with more finality.

"I was just looking around appreciating every single fan," Contreras said after the 8-1 win over the Reds. "And taking a moment in this special place. Wrigley Field is nothing more special. And since the moment that I got here, I knew that this could have been my home for my whole career.

"But I got to a moment in my career that is like a dream coming true. I earned my spot in free agency. And I'm looking forward to it."

The longest-tenured player in the Cubs' organization, Contreras signed with the club out of Venezuela in 2009. As a Minor Leaguer, he moved off the infield and tried his hand at catching, turning himself into an eventual three-time National League All-Star.

Contreras broke into the Majors in 2016, launching a home run on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer and celebrating a World Series triumph that fall. Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon used to say the team needed to "plug into" Contreras' energy, which the catcher learned to channel as he matured over recent years.

"Once I got to the big leagues," Contreras said, "I told Joe that he was never going to send me down to Triple-A because, 'I'm going to own this spot. I want to own this place.' And looking back, six years from [then], it makes me proud of the job that I've been doing."

During Saturday's game, Cubs fans offered a long standing ovation to veteran Jason Heyward, who showed off his World Series ring when he took the field. After this season, Chicago plans on releasing Heyward to focus on younger players who are part of the future.

Both Saturday and Sunday, a select group of Cubs prospects were in the stands as part of a weekend minicamp to soak in the environment, hear from players and staff and plan their offseasons. Watching the receptions for Heyward and Contreras had an impact on them, too.

"It was really cool," Cubs first-base prospect said on Sunday. "The players at breakfast yesterday said when you play well and do things for this city, they'll love you. They'll treat you like royalty forever."

Contreras was asked why he feels Cubs fans have embraced him the way they did over the years.

"I'm a guy that gives 100 percent and they see the effort," he said. "I think the fans appreciate how hard I work, how hard I came out to the game and did my 100 percent. That was the only thing that I can control."

Contreras went through an emotional few weeks in July, when he was convinced he was going to be dealt before the Trade Deadline. That did not come to fruition, even after the catcher went through what he thought was his last home game in July.

On Sunday, Contreras pumped a fist to the crowd as they roared ahead of his last at-bat. It was a familiar scene to one prior to the Trade Deadline -- the difference being that now the offseason is around the corner.

"It was nice for him to get some love," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He's got a lot of moments of love this year. It looked like he was taking those in. And those are special, special things that you don't ever forget as a player."