Professional athletes will often tell you one of the biggest compliments they can ever receive from the guys they suit up with daily is to be called a great teammate.
There is a huge sense of pride for a player, that others on the team respect and value because of their character, not their stats. These are the guys that listen actively, communicate well, give constructive criticism, and are willing to openly share their own strengths and weaknesses. They are typically problem solvers as well, and do it in a way where the rest of the team believes they all played a role in the solution. But, most of all, these players are “all in” with their commitment to the team and winning.
Spending nearly everyday in the Cubs clubhouse the last four years, I can attest to there being a number of guys who exude all of those qualities. It’s a special group and it’s why 2016 resulted in a championship. Anytime you can get 25 guys and a handful of young superstars to buy into the team being greater than the sum of it’s parts, it means you’ve got a core of high character guys.
And men that just “get it.” In other words, there are a lot of “great teammates” on the North Side right now. But, when you put them on the spot and ask whom their favorite or best teammate is…they’ll likely tell you Jason Heyward.
Heyward embodies everything you want in a teammate. Just ask David Ross, who got emotional when he found out the 21-year-old rookie he was lockermates with in Atlanta, turned around six years later and made sure Ross and his family would have a suite on every road trip during his final season. That was Heyward’s way of thanking another “great teammate” for guidance early on in his career.
Heyward came to the Cubs because he wanted to join a team that would “feel like a brotherhood." That’s the family mentality he was looking for and the environment he’s helped create. Heyward is the brother everyone on the team trusts and appreciates. He listens, he communicates and when there’s a rain delay in the World Series he problem-solves.
Heyward reminded his brothers in that critical turning point that he loved them. That he was proud of them and all they had overcome together. He made sure to reiterate how everyone on the team had contributed to their success. He was honest about his struggles and not knowing how they were going to pull off that World Series victory, but he knew it was going to be together. That is what a leader does. That is what a great teammate does. And that is why so many Cubs players, name Heyward as their “rock.”