Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. had 16 months to work towards and picture this moment, but he didn’t see this coming.
“It was really emotional. I didn’t actually expect it to be. I don’t know why [it was],” Souza told reporters on Monday.
Souza made his Cubs debut Monday, his first big league game since Sept. 30, 2018. He promptly knocked a two-run double into the left field corner in the first inning. His teammates went crazy in the dugout, and he was overcome with emotion.
“I played so many games in spring training and then the summer camp that I wasn’t really prepared for how I was gonna react,” he said. “I think it was just overwhelming being back. This was where I had my surgery and then the overwhelming sense of support from all my teammates, it just flooded me.
“It just brought me back to being thankful for all the people that impact me. It was a really cool moment.”
Souza missed all of 2019 after sustaining a devastating knee injury in one of the last spring training games. This came after missing two months on two separate occasions in 2018 due to a right pec strain. And, of course, his return was delayed further by MLB’s shutdown due to COVID-19.
It’s been a long road back for the 31-year-old, some telling him he wasn’t going to be able to return and that his career was over. Souza said Tuesday his faith and wife helped him push forward and grind through his recovery.
Yesterday was a huge moment for me! The road back from that injury in 2019 wasn’t easy but through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, My wife, my family, Dr. Kremcheck, Ken Crenshaw, and Evo, I was able to make it back. Thank you to all my support I Love you all.— Steven Souza Jr. (@SouzaJr) July 28, 2020
“I just believed that there was a reason that this all happened to me. I had amazing support from my wife through this entire time,” he said. “She’s been my rock through this whole thing.”
Souza finished the night 1-for-5, including a fly ball out to the center field warning track. Cubs manager David Ross was overjoyed for him after the game.
“You should have seen the emotion — I hope somebody caught that on camera — his emotion after he got that hit and the way the dugout was clapping for him,” Ross said. “That’s real. This guy didn’t know if he was ever going to play baseball again, so for him to get that big knock his first plate appearance, everybody was fired up for him."
“That was just the start last night,” Souza said. “Being able to say I made it through all that was a huge accomplishment for me.”