Cubs

Ian Happ’s message to Theo Epstein after 1st All-Star nod

Cubs

A text from former Cubs president Theo Epstein was among the flurry that flooded into Ian Happ’s phone after he earned his first career All-Star selection over the weekend.

Congratulations certainly have been in order for Happ, who’s had an up-and-down career with dramatic peaks and valleys offensively before this breakout 2022 season. 

Happ was the Cubs’ fourth straight top 10 draft pick after Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Co. took over the front office a decade ago. When he received that text from the former Cubs boss, Happ thanked Epstein — for everything.

“I thanked him for giving me the chance here and being able to do it in front of these fans and this city,” Happ said.

Of those four top 10 first rounders drafted by Epstein’s Cubs front office, Happ was the third to make an All-Star team — following Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

But Happ has had by far the bumpiest road to get to this point than his former Cubs teammates. 

After an impressive 2017 rookie campaign, he struggled in the second half of 2018 and spent the first half of 2019 in the minor leagues.

Through Aug. 1 last season, he held a .177/.290/.321 slash line in 90 games and was a non-tender candidate.

“I played with guys who’ve had a little bit of a smoother road,” said Happ, who went 2-for-3 in Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Orioles. “I felt like when I first came up, I showed spurts of this and ability.

 

“Different things happen through the course of a career, a season, that lead to ups and downs. Sometimes, you just have to learn a lot along the way. You have to take a lot in, and it takes time.

“It takes at-bats, it takes experiences, whatever those are — whether it’s physically or mentally — to feel like you can do this every day at a high level. Fortunately, I was able to get that.”

Happ got the at-bats, receiving everyday playing time after the Cubs’ trade deadline selloff last summer. He finished 2021 strong and carried it over to this season.

Since Aug. 1 last season, Happ holds a .281/.366/.505 slash line (entering Wednesday) with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs with solid walk (11 percent) and strikeout (24.3) rates.

Happ called it “humbling” to reach All-Star status and be recognized as part of the best group of players in baseball.

“That’s probably one of the most special parts of it, is that that's attached to you forever,” Happ said. “They can't take that away from you, so that's a really, really cool thing. 

“To represent this team and this organization, this city — especially coming up here, being drafted here, wearing this jersey for as long as I have, being able to go out in LA and represent the organization, I'm really, really thankful for that.”

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