Ian Happ didn’t try to hide it.
Maybe some of the emotion that started to show in a halt of his voice and eyes that welled slightly at times.
But not the part about knowing this could be it, this two-game homestand against the Pirates this week. Likely his final days at Wrigley Field after seven years with the organization. Like Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez and Kris Bryant barely a year earlier.
“I’m trying to really enjoy the next two days here no matter what, and we’ll see what happens,” said the No. 9 overall draft pick in 2015 who debuted with a home run at Busch Stadium in May 2017 — then hit 23 more that rookie year as the Cubs shook their World Series hangover to return to the National League Championship Series.
“I don’t want to leave here without absorbing it, taking it in,” he said a few hours before the Pirates series opened. “The next two days will be a lot of enjoying being out there, enjoying the guys in left field, giving them the outs, hearing the fans.”
Happ took the field Tuesday afternoon to a standing ovation from his loyal left-field bleacher fans, taking a moment to wave and doff his cap. Soon after, he delivered a double in the first that drove home two teammates, including Willson Contreras — who was forced to step out of the box before his rally-opening single to acknowledge a standing ovation from the full crowd on his final day as a Cub at Wrigley.
The Cubs leave for San Francisco after this two-game pit stop of a homestand and won’t return to Wrigley until after the Aug. 2 trade deadline — almost certainly without three-time All-Star Contreras, closer David Robertson, setup man Mychal Givens and, perhaps, a 27-year-old, switch-hitting All-Star from Pittsburgh who doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
A fifth consecutive win for the Cubs on Monday couldn’t comb over the gaps, flaws and questions up and down a fourth-place roster that’s going to get worse after next week before it gets better — never mind whenever it might be playoff-worthy again.
And purging the likes of Contreras and Happ — a year after a nine-man purge that included five All-Stars — isn’t likely to speed up the process.
The Cubs have had no extension talks with either of their 2022 All-Stars in the past year, both players said.
Contreras, who said all season he learned from the distractions the three traded core players dealt with last year to stay focused during his season of uncertainty, finally spilled some of the pent-up emotion Monday night. “I knew it would get to me at some point,” he said.
For Happ, who has a year left of club control after this season, the looming end of his Cubs tenure has been more of a growing realization this year.
“It’s a weird thing we sign up for sometimes,” Happ said. “I’ve been here since 2015. Willson [Contreras] has been here forever. I grew up here and never think twice about coming here and calling this place home. We made so many relationships in the city and organization, all over the place.
“It’s crazy to think that you could wake up one day and not be here.”
That’s the business side of the game that perhaps no one in the clubhouse knows better than Happ — the club’s union rep who also beat the Cubs in arbitration last year (the first to win a case against the Cubs since Shawon Dunston in 1990).
It’s a business side that eventually bites almost every player, said Happ — who also said it feels like he just got here.
“It goes quick,” he said. “It’s crazy to think that at 20 years old the draft just happened, so I was just thinking about getting the call and entering into this organization and what it was at that point, before the World Series, and the group of coaches and minor-league staff that’s kind of dispersed into different organizations at the big-league level. And then everything that went into watching the team win the World Series. And then [former teammate Kyle] Schwarber and I get to go to the All-Star game together in different uniforms and get to play in the outfield together again.
“All those little things,” he added. “It’s kind of a full-circle journey in some sense. But I don’t want my Cubs journey to end.”