MESA, Arizona -- It had to happen because I saw it with my very own eyes, though I had to make sure by asking people seated around me if they saw it, too. They did, so I was pretty sure it wasn't just a mass hallucination.
"It" was the first home run hit in professional baseball, anywhere, by Cubs lefthander Jon Lester.
And, even though the game wasn't televised, we have video proof!
Looks like there was single-camera coverage recording highlights, and the call is from Mick Gillispie on cubs.com. Lester's homer -- opposite field, no less -- was part of a seven-run Cubs fourth inning that also included a two-run double from David Ross (who had three doubles) and this homer from Kyle Schwarber, back-to-back with Lester [VIDEO].
Also oppo, also Mick Gillispie on the call. Lester has bragging rights, as his homer went farther than Schwarber's. Here's what Lester said about his blast:
FYI, last time #Cubs Lester hit a home run: high school— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 30, 2016
#Cubs Lester on HR: "It was a cool thing and something you can put on the mantle but it really doesn't matter. ... (1 of 2)— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 30, 2016
More #Cubs Lester on HR: "Hopefully we can get one during the season. That will mean a lot more."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 30, 2016
Courtesy of BCB's Danny Rockett, here are two photos of Lester's home-run trot:
When Lester wasn't flexing his hitting prowess, he was pitching lights-out. One way to not have to worry about holding runners on is to not allow any, and Lester nearly did that in five shutout innings. He allowed a fourth-inning single to Mark Reynolds, and Rockies catcher Tony Wolters reached on a throwing error by Addison Russell (unusual, that one was, a really wild throw). Wolters did steal second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded. Lester had excellent command, especially of his breaking pitches, and struck out 10 (five called strikeouts).
Other Cubs hitting stars of the 17-hit attach: Kris Bryant (single, double), Tommy La Stella (two singles), Anthony Rizzo (single, walk), Jorge Soler (two singles, two RBI) and Russell (double, walk).
After the fifth inning the entire starting team departed, leaving to warm applause through the left-field exit, likely on their way to catch the team flight to Las Vegas.
Adam Warren and Clayton Richard finished up with two scoreless innings each. Warren allowed a pair of hits and was helped out by a slick fielding play by Logan Watkins . Richard allowed three hits (probably should have been two; the last hit was a bobbled ball that could have been called an error) and ended the game by inducing a 5-4-3 double play.
So the Cubs finish the Cactus League with a 10-17-2 record, but this game shows how much offense this ballclub can generate, and that's without Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward or Miguel Montero in the starting lineup. Ross had a really good spring with the bat, going 9-for-29 (.357) with five doubles and six RBI. Russell hit .260 this spring, but with a double, five homers and 12 RBI.
Attendance watch: 15,108 paid at Sloan Park Wednesday, another sellout, bringing the season total to 226,163, which is an all-time spring-training record. It broke last year's record of 222,415 by 3,748, or 250 per date. The average this year of 15,078 is thus also a record. Of the 15 home dates at Sloan Park, just two (March 7 vs. the Royals and March 9 vs. the Indians) did not sell out. It was nice to see BCB'er redivy this afternoon; he's here on his annual pilgrimage to spring training from England.
The Cubs have three more practice games, two in Las Vegas vs. the Mets Thursday and Friday, and one against the Angels Sunday in Anaheim before they begin the 2016 regular season, also in Anaheim, Monday evening. Thursday's starters are two prospects, Ryan Williams for the Cubs and Paul Sewald for the Mets. The game starts at 7 p.m. CT Thursday, and a game preview will post here at 5 p.m. CT Thursday.