ST. LOUIS – Dexter Fowler is in such a unique situation that he might get standing ovations at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field this season.
The Opening Night sellout crowd of 47,566 stood up for Fowler before his first at-bat on Sunday, hoping he can have the same impact on the St. Louis Cardinals as he did with the you-go, we-go Cubs. The Cardinals wanted more energy, athleticism and presence at the top of their lineup and made Fowler an offer he couldn't refuse at five years and $82.5 million. The first snapshot became a 4-3 walk-off win over the defending World Series champs.
Fowler will be busy when the Cubs get their World Series rings on April 12, but he has stayed in contact with club president Theo Epstein and his old teammates. Look for the Cubs to do some sort of public acknowledgement (video board tribute?) and give Fowler his championship bling when the Cardinals visit Wrigley Field in early June.
"I've been talking to Theo about it," Fowler said. "We'll see. I think it's probably my first trip back there."
There are no hard feelings, because Fowler finished his mission in Chicago and earned the security of a long-term deal, while the Cubs wanted to groom Albert Almora Jr. as a center fielder and preserve some financial flexibility for their young hitting stars and pitching reinforcements.
"Dexter is the type of guy that looks good no matter what he wears," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "I tried to bash on him. I was like: 'Man, you kind of look good.' He's obviously a good friend. He's always going to be a good friend. But when we're between the lines, we got to keep it professional."
Just like his old teammates, Fowler has gotten the same kind of thank-yous from total strangers.
"Coming over here, you still have Cubs fans that tend to like me," Fowler said. "They understand the nature of the game, besides the 12-year-olds that are cussing me out."
"Yeah, on Twitter, Instagram, the whole nine, they're cussing me out, but that's fine," Fowler said.
Fowler says these things with a smile on his face and an attitude that got a lot of attention from the Cardinal brass and in the St. Louis media. Fowler being a spring-training DJ during the team stretch and batting practice disrupted The Cardinal Way.
"They've welcomed me with open arms," Fowler said. "I felt like we had to turn up a little bit. I just wanted to come out here and be myself. You guys all know how I am. It was too quiet."
Fowler sparked the Cardinals in the third inning with an infield single off Jon Lester. Fowler raced to third base when Javier Baez couldn't pick up a probable double-play ball he lost in a white rotating ad behind home plate. Fowler scored his new team's first run of 2017 on Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly to right field, looking like something out of The Cubs Way.
Manager Joe Maddon won't reveal the updated version of the "you go, we go" message that he used to send to Fowler, saying it's too X-rated with new leadoff guy Kyle Schwarber. But Fowler will always be part of The Team that will live forever in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans.
"What he did the last couple years for us, this is his opportunity to make it good for his family for the rest of his life," Maddon said. "Good for him, man. We'd love to have him. I'd love to be saying (that to him). But I'm really happy for him and his family."