Addison Russell is back and he made sure everybody in baseball knew it.
Russell hasn't played since Aug. 2, out with a foot injury that he initially thought would only keep him out the minimum 10 days.
The Cubs activated their World Series-winning shortstop Saturday and he came up in the bottom of the eighth inning in a tight 3-1 game against the St. Louis Cardinals:
Welcome back, Addison Russell 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/HY07pWZ2Ng— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) September 16, 2017
It'd be tough to write a better script unless it was maybe a walk-off homer.
The 40,959 fans in attendance at Wrigley Field gave Russell a standing ovation before he even took that swing and when he circled the bases and disappeared into the dugout, they demanded a curtain call, which he was none too happy to oblige.
"That was a pretty special moment in my life," Russell said. "Walking to the plate, I couldn't help but smile inside. I felt light. It was pretty fun."
Russell said he had been working to mentally prepare for his return as well as all his physical work and joked that he surprises himself sometimes, too.
He knew a day or two ago that there was a chance he could be activated this weekend and he had been chomping at the bit to get back on the field with his teammates in a pennant race.
Joe Maddon just wanted to ease Russell into the game and hoped Saturday's pinch-hitting appearance would be one step toward a comfort level at the plate.
Looks like Russell's feeling plenty comfortable.
"Of course we're not expecting that," Maddon said. "I just wanted to get him an at-bat. I knew [Ben] Zobrist was coming up and we could do the double switch thing and all of a sudden, the ball was in the seats. But also reminded you, talking about what we've been kinda missing this year is his presence, also."
Russell's teammates loved it.
"Same when Willy [Contreras]came back," Albert Almora Jr. said. "That just goes to show what type of fans we have and how loyal they are. It's awesome.
"I got goosebumps when both of them came up to hit in their first game. For him to come back like that, jeez, man, I was super proud of him."
Kyle Hendricks — who got the win Saturday with a masterful performance — remembers his own return to the field after a long layoff to injury.
"That was awesome to see, man," Hendricks said of Russell. "Him smiling going around first. It's been a while and I know how that feels from earlier this year. Just brings more energy to us. Part of the group; he's one of the guys. It's awesome to have him back, that's for sure."
Russell has had a trying year, both personally and professionally. He said his teammates' reaction to the homer helped make the moment extra sweet.
He stayed in the game after the at-bat and went to shortstop, moving Javy Baez to second base for the first time in six weeks. Russell also caught the final out of the game when Yadier Molina hit a soft liner to shortstop.
With Almora playing center, Ian Happ in left field, Jason Heyward in right field and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant rounding out the infield, the Cubs liked the way their defense looked to end the game.
There is no shortstop controversy or question on if Russell will be on a postseason roster (if the Cubs make it). He is the shortstop and Baez is the second baseman, giving the Cubs elite level defense up the middle.
Can the Cubs as a whole get back to that historic defensive level they played 2016 at?
"I think so," Russell said. "As we go down here toward the end of the season and then hopefully into the postseaosn, the team's just gonna get stronger, defensively and offensively."