Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- They’ve represented well all season, so it didn’t surprise Cubs players when the team’s fans made their presence felt at Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

Though they were outnumbered, at times Cubs fans gave the visiting team the feel of a home-field advantage at Progressive Field.

The Cubs made the most of the opportunity with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings over the Cleveland Indians that sent their faithful into delirium. Shortly after they blew a four-run lead, the Cubs rebounded and won their first World Series title since 1908.

“It was awesome that they showed up like that,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “I feel like the whole season is a home game with Cubs fans everywhere. And they’ve been fighting for this and we did it for them.”

Cubs fans didn’t shy away from making the 5 1/2-hour trek from Chicago after the Cubs forced Game 7 with a victory on Tuesday night. StubHub reported that 60 percent of the fans who purchased Game 7 tickets on Wednesday had Illinois addresses. The median price tag was $1,823.

Fans didn’t wait long to announce their presence, roaring in delight when Fowler led off the contest with a solo homer off Indians starter Corey Kluber.

“We had a lot of Cubs over here,” catcher Miguel Montero said.

Indians fans weren’t to be outdone, especially after Rajai Davis tied the score at 6 in the eighth-inning with a stunning two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman. But the Cubs crowd stayed strong in spite of the potential disaster and roared in delight when Kris Bryant fielded Michael Martinez’s grounder to third and fired the ball to Anthony Rizzo for an out so many never believed would come.

Fans stuck around afterward to partake in the celebration. More than 90 minutes after the final out and in spite of a heavy rain, Cubs fans continued to celebrate their team’s stunning comeback in the series.

“I expected a big contingent in Cleveland,” assistant general manager Jason McLeod said. “I didn’t expect them to get that many tickets into the ballpark. It was awesome. It was like that everywhere -- San Francisco, LA. The Cubs fans came out in droves. They were awesome and we all were talking about this -- personally, professionally we all want to win (for us). But we all talked a lot about, ‘Gosh man, in addition to that, it’d be so great to win for these fans.’ So passionate. To be able to do that and to see them out there after the game -- it looked like they took up a third of the ballpark if not more. It was phenomenal.”

More on the World Series victory

--Joy to the World: Cubs finally end 108-year Series drought

--Finally: The Cubs are World Series champs

--The wait –and the weight- is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

--Barack Obama congratulates Cubs World Series championship

--Famous Cubs fans celebrate World Series title on Twitter

--Ben Zobrist becomes first Cub ever to win World Series MVP

--Numbers game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

--Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was ‘divine intervention’ for Cubs

​--Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

--Ben Zobrist delivers exactly what the Cubs expected with massive World Series

--‘Dreams come true’: Bill Murray reacts to Cubs winning the World Series

--Big surprise: Kyle Schwarber plays hero again for Cubs in World Series Game 7

- Ryne Sandberg: World Series ‘made it able for me to live in the present’

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”