CarGo gets standing ovation in Denver return

June 11th, 2019

DENVER -- It wasn't planned, but was given uniform No. 2 when he joined the Cubs on June 1, a digit that, when inverted, becomes a 5. That's the number he wore for 1,247 games with the Rockies, the club with which he became a star.

Though he played against his former club at Wrigley Field last week, Gonzalez on Monday walked into Coors Field, a ballpark he called home for a decade, as a visiting player for the first time, and he was given a warm ovation before his first at-bat, a walk leading off the second inning.

"You can always imagine how it's gonna be or whatever, but it was definitely better than I thought," CarGo said of the ovation from the crowd of 44,859 during the Cubs' 6-5 loss. "They showed their support and they showed their appreciation over the years, and it's going to be something that's going to stay with me for the rest of my life."

"Real recognizes real," said Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond of Gonzalez's ovation. "I think the best way I can say it is: Real recognizes real. He's a heck of a player. It's not easy to do the things he did here for a long time. You've gotta give respect where respect is due."

Infielder Ryan McMahon was a rookie in Gonzalez's final year with the Rockies, but the veteran left an impression.

"You could probably ask Nolan [Arenado] or some of the guys who have been around him more, but I had a special year with him last year," McMahon said. "He was great to me. I didn't know how long I should clap for. I wanted to clap a little bit but I didn't want to clap too much. It was great. I think he got the ovation he deserved, and the video was good, too."

Arriving at the ballpark with the visiting team was so strange for Gonzalez that he nearly walked into the Rockies clubhouse.

"Obviously, this is home for me," he said. "I've got a lot of memories in this place. But baseball's always a funny sport. Now I'm on the other side."

Gonzalez finished his Rockies career with three All-Star selections, three Gold Glove Awards, a batting average title in 2010 and a .290/.349/.516 slash line (116 OPS+) with 227 home runs, placing him fourth in the club's 26-year history.

The man just ahead of him on that list, Vinny Castilla, yelled Gonzalez's name from the home dugout prior to the game, and the two embraced behind the batting cage to catch up. Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich joined in, and the trio talked and shared a big laugh every few minutes until heading back to their respective sides.

Gonzalez has already made his presence felt with the Cubs, hitting his first homer with the club in Sunday night's victory over the Cardinals. He's also made some sparkling defensive contributions, one of which saved a potential bases-clearing hit by the Angels' Jonathan Lucroy in his Cubs debut.

Chicago signed Gonzalez after he was released by Cleveland on May 26. He hit .210/.282/.276 with two homers in 117 plate appearances for the Tribe. The Cubs can see a scenario in which Gonzalez's veteran presence and track record on the field helps them as they try to wrestle the National League Central title back from the Brewers and go deep into the postseason, following an early exit last October at the hands of Gonzalez and the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game.

"I watch him talking to the guys, and I watch the guys talking to him," said manager Joe Maddon. "He's the kind of guy that when you bring him in during the season, players have got to know that it's not just a lateral movement. And you know that it's not with him. The other players have to feel this guy can immediately help, and that was the reaction."

Perhaps it was fate that led Gonzalez to being issued No. 2 with the Cubs. It definitely wasn't his idea.

"That's what I got," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

He hadn't gone into the season planning to be a Chicago Cub either, but now he's on a club with designs on winning the World Series for the second time in four seasons. For Gonzalez, a championship ring is something still lacking in a career that isn't lacking much.

If he does end up getting his finger sized for championship jewelry with the Cubs, it's in large part thanks to what happened from 2009-18 in Colorado.

"I am the player that I am today because of all the people around me here over the years," Gonzalez said. "What really makes me happy is I still have a relationship with the guys over there, with Nolan and Charlie [Blackmon], DJ [LeMahieu] when he was here.

"I watched all of those guys grow. That only happens once in your life."

Cubs' thoughts with Big Papi

As David Ortiz recovers from surgery after being shot in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, the baseball world is thinking of one of its greatest ambassadors. That includes the Cubs, many of whom have close ties with Big Papi.

"We're really concerned, and our prayers are with him and his family, and for his health," said third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who served in the same role with the Red Sox from 2013-17. "He's a great man. A great man.

"There's a story I tell my friends back home all the time: Whenever we would have kids run out to the field with the team [before the first pitch] ... all the players would just kind of jog along with the kids. David stopped, got on his knees, and gave that kid a hug. He's just so engaging, just a great personality. Such a great ambassador for baseball."

Maddon has been around Ortiz, going back to his days in Minnesota.

"It's beyond awful," Maddon said. "I've heard he's flying back to Boston, and that's a good thing, get him back on his feet. But [what happened] is just unimaginable."

"He's gonna be OK," Butterfield said. "He's tougher than any 10 men."

Anthony Rizzo tweeted out his support for the fellow All-Star slugger: "Thinking of @davidortiz, his wife, Tiffany, and their children. One of the best on and off the field. Prayers for a full recovery."