Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis isn’t dwelling on Wrigley Field’s seats being empty in a season attempting to be played amid COVID-19.
“This is cup half full. I don’t worry that I wish it was in front of full stadiums or I wish that my family and friends were at the game,” Kipnis said after Friday’s 6-3 Cubs win on the North Side. “I take it for what it is, and I enjoy it for what it is.”
Friday’s game was another chapter in Kipnis’ homecoming, not to mention a reunion of another kind for the Northbrook native.
In the fourth inning, Kipnis deposited a 1-1 slider from Pirates starter Trevor Williams into the right field bleachers — his first long ball in a Cubs uniform. That ball sailed over the head of Pirates outfielder Cole Tucker, who was a bat boy at Arizona State during Kipnis’ college playing days. Further, Williams played for the Sun Devils a few seasons after Kipnis.
That Tucker, a shortstop by trade, was playing right field on Friday is another unique layer to the story.
In Friday’s postgame Zoom session, Kipnis recalled a time he was on a rehab stint with the Columbus Clippers during his tenure with Cleveland. He recognized Tucker — then in Triple-A for the Pirates — by his hair.
“I turned around and I’m staring at the and almost even missed a pitch,” Kipnis recalled. “I’m like ‘Tucker, Tucker. Why does this stand out?’”
The connection eventually clicked when Tucker reached second base in that minor league game. Fast forward to Friday’s game — both players are in the big leagues, one a 24-year-old in his first 'full' season, another a 33-year-old veteran.
“He’s an awesome kid and has a bright career ahead of him,” Kipnis said of Tucker. “It makes you feel old a little bit but it’s really fun to watch some other guys that you know, their dreams play out too.”
And, about that home run ball. Kipnis showed reporters the ball sitting in a plastic case during his media session. Fans or no fans, he'll remember that moment.
“I had a good time. I’ll remember that always," he said. "And, I got the ball too. That's coming with me."