Albert Almora Jr. walked into the Wrigley Field clubhouse on Thursday morning wearing a gray hoodie, sweatpants and a championship ring made from 14-karat white gold. The first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here grew up in the "When It Happens" farm system and built up enough trust as a rookie to be out there in the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7.
"It's hard to put into words what something so special like that means to you," Almora said. "It's hard work. It's family. It's team. It's a whole bunch of things all mixed together. It's curse-breaker. You can put a bunch of different words into that – special (doesn't sum it up). I don't think the word's invented yet."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon made up a word: "D-Peat." Nothing could create the same tidal wave of emotions for generations of fans. But defense is one reason why the 2017 Cubs could become an even better team than the one that ended the 108-year drought.
"If we made a T-shirt for it, it's pretty big," Almora said after flashing his Gold Glove potential during a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Almora twice robbed Corey Seager – last season's National League Rookie of the Year and third-place finisher in the MVP voting – with spectacular plays in center field. That bailed out Brett Anderson on an afternoon where the groundball lefty didn't have his best stuff, giving up three hits and four walks in five scoreless innings.
"I think I owe Almora my paycheck for the day," Anderson said.
"Sick, I'll take it," Almora said. "No, I'm just happy when I go in and they recognize and they give me a pound or a high-five or whatever. That's all I want."
Almora made a jumping catch at the wall in the first inning, his back crashing into the bricks and brown ivy. Almora then made an over-the-shoulder, on-the-run catch in the third inning, showing why Maddon has already compared the young defender to eight-time Gold Glove winner Jim Edmonds.
"He's not afraid of the big moment," said outfielder Jason Heyward. "He wants to be in the big moment. That's kind of what this team is based around – you want to be in the moment. He's got the right mindset already. He just has to come out and play. Repetition is the best teacher. That's what he has left to do."
Heyward – who has already won four Gold Gloves – noticed it immediately last year while playing next to Almora in spring training.
"I saw him go out there and be fearless," Heyward said. "He runs into the wall to catch the baseball, and things like that tell me that he's not thinking – in a good way. He's not overthinking it. He's just going out there, trusting his ability and trying to get a jump. And there are things he's going to get more comfortable with, playing stadiums, (reading) certain hitters."
That's the scary thought for the rest of Major League Baseball. On a team already loaded with young stars, Almora will turn 23 this weekend and be in position to make highlight-reel plays for years to come.
"It totally deflates the other side," Maddon said. "That's almost like hitting a home run or getting a bases-loaded double regarding the energy that's created in your dugout. We feed off of our defense, we absolutely do. When we make a good play, the whole bench goes nuts.
"We're noted to have a really good offensive ballclub. I'm really more enamored with our defensive side."