Cubs

Willson Contreras' mind is on baseball, while his heart is in Venezuela

Willson Contreras' mind is on baseball, while his heart is in Venezuela

Facing his locker, AirPods in his ears, Willson Contreras pulled out a little samba move as he danced his way into the next phase of his pre-game routine.

Before meetings and batting practice, Contreras began his morning by lifting weights, trying to get his mind on baseball and off the stress that has heaped the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Baseball is providing the 26 year-old with an escape from the devastating situation in his homeland of Venezuela.

“When I’m at the ballpark I’m happy, I enjoy my teammates and every second here,” Contreras told me during spring training. “But once you leave, everything that comes to my mind is Venezuela. How are the people doing there and when is going to be the end?”

Contreras’ 2019 resurgence – including a monster home run Wednesday night in Seattle – is even more remarkable when you put in perspective everything he’s dealing with on a daily basis outside of baseball.

This isn’t managing some prolonged slump at the plate or a 2-7 start to the season. To Venezuelans, this is a matter of life or death.

“I went down to Venezuela... it’s hard to see kids from 5 to 8 years old looking in a trash can for food,” he said. “It’s hard to see people dying because they don’t have medicine at all. Nowadays, it’s hard to go down there because you watch all of that.”

Watching Venezuelans contemplate their future in their home country hurts.

"It’s not supposed to be that way because we’re born in Venezuela and you want your future to be in Venezuela,” Contreras said.

Just this week, thousands of marchers protested in Venezuela to try to force socialist President Nicolás Maduro from power. With tensions escalating and a revolution on their hands, Contreras told me before suiting up for the Cubs and Mariners game on Tuesday he’s just scared for his country.

“Everybody doesn’t have the same heart because the regime knows how bad they’re doing to the country,” he said in spring training. “They know they’re killing people. They know the military is killing people because the regime is making orders. You cannot go to the streets and have a democracy because the military will kill you just like that. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”

With those thoughts constantly weighing on his heart and mind, Contreras continues to find a way to channel his emotions into the game he loves as much as his country.

Willson Contreras is raising money for his country by selling  "Freedom for Venezuela" shirts, with 100% of the profits going to Venezuela.

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MLB Power Rankings: Astros' recent slide opens door for A's in AL West

MLB Power Rankings: Astros' recent slide opens door for A's in AL West

We're nearing the end of Week 3 of the six-week 2020 MLB season. On the field, the A's have been on a tear, vaulting themselves to the top of the AL West. Early surprises in the Marlins, Orioles and Tigers haven't fallen off yet.

Off the field, the Cardinals are nearing the two-week mark since they last played due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their clubhouse. St. Louis was going to return last weekend before more members of the team tested positive for the coronavirus. 

When the Cardinals return is up in the air, and at the earliest it'll be on Friday. They're running out of time to play 60 games, even if their schedule includes numerous doubleheaders.

The health of the team is all that matters, even if they get back to playing soon. Pitchers league-wide have gone down to injury at alarming rates, and there's concern over how the Cardinals will be affected, however long their layoff is.

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Here's to a safe return for the Cardinals. As things stand, this is how the 30 teams stack up.

MLB Power Rankings 2020

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Will 4 days off help or hurt the Cubs?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Will 4 days off help or hurt the Cubs?

With the Cardinals being shutdown by MLB for a COVID-19 outbreak in the organization, the Cubs had an impromptu four days off after stringing together one of the best records in baseball so far. Will having the days off help or hurt them going forward?

David Kaplan and Gordon Wittenmyer discuss the Cubs' impromptu weekend off, Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger breaking protocol and going out in Chicago, and a 'what if' scenario that could have changed the Cubs getting Aroldis Chapman in 2016.

(1:20) - Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger breaking safety protocol to go out in Chicago

(7:09) - Cubs get four days off due to the Cardinals' coronavirus outbreak

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(9:30) - Is David Ross following in the steps of Joe Maddon with some of his methods?

(16:00) - How will MLB fix the missing games that teams will have at the end of the season?

(18:40) - Cubs wanted Andrew Miller initially, not Aroldis Chapman in 2016

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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