The term is “a picture tells a thousand words.” Sometimes, the axiom gets either flipped on its head, or personified. Either or. I saw this picture on a recent Sunday of Jhonny Pereda, and one word was screamed at me, but in a pleasant way. “Joy.” I turned to four of my favorite people in the pipeline to find out which Cubs prospects personify “Baseball And Joy” the most, be it in moments, or every day.
Pereda was supposed to be a fringe back-up this season. Perhaps in South Bend, or maybe in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey just about insisted on having Pereda in Myrtle Beach, and turned him into an everyday player. Splitting time with P.J. Higgins early, Pereda was getting his name in the line-up card, either way. Whether at first, catcher, or designated hitter, the 22-year-old from Aragua, Venezuela not only played every day, but enjoyed it.
Alex Cohen from Iowa checked in first: “David Bote’s demeanor screams joy.” But then, you already knew that. Who else says that he enjoys fielding grounders in a fashion that you believe him without asking for a second opinion?
With Bote, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and others, joy is appearing to be a seventh tool. Along with speed, power, hitting, defense, and throwing, attitude (or makeup) is being taken as the Cubs’ sixth tool, and borderline secret sauce. After all, if you bring in players who play the game smartly already, less preparation time is needed to teach the basics that should already be known. Like, “Show up for practice on-time.”
Considering joy as the seventh tool is an interesting sideswipe. It’s not even necessary to wonder if Baez is having a good time on the field. If scouts are prioritizing players that “enjoy themselves on the field,” I’d be good with that as a tie-breaker.
“Bote, Vosler, and Zack Short,” added Double-A Tennessee’s announcer Mick Gillispie. Vosler might be next year’s “from nowhere” surprise. More of a third baseman, Vosler leads the Cubs system in homers, between Tennessee and Iowa. Short is a middle infielder with improving power, who was also a third-day pick in his draft season (2016). As all three are infielders, this tells you the versatility epidemic might be nowhere near over.
Having five or six really smart, versatile infielders who lap up the game with the enjoyment of a three-year-old chasing bottled bubbles on a slightly windy day makes it very possible to find a team that might be interested in trading for one. Eventually, that might become necessary.
Myrtle Beach’s announcer Scott Kornberg on Pereda: “He is literally the energy that powers the 2018 Pelicans. Every single day, he comes with a great attitude, and he’s just so excited to play no matter what- even at a demanding position.”
It’s tough to fathom having too many players like that.
From South Bend, Brendan King chimes in. King is the secondary broadcaster for the South Bend Cubs, but announces much better than that makes him sound: “By far, the guy you can always catch with a smile no matter the situation is Delvin Zinn. The guy is always positive.” Zinn is an infielder who the Cubs were so committed to his “make-up” that they drafted him in successive seasons. A second baseman originally, you’ll see Zinn all about the infield as the South Bend Cubs make a late playoff run in the Midwest League.
“The funniest guy we have is (relief pitcher) Ben Hecht”, continues King. “Always has a joke to lighten the mood, or put a smile on someone’s face.” King also credits the recently called-up to Myrtle Beach Garrett Kelly. Rescued from independent ball, the right-hander with a mid-90s fast ball and a nasty slider, also is a “great teammate, all business on the mound, and always goes out of his way to get to know you or have a solid conversation.”
Speaking of Myrtle Beach, Kornberg on outfielder Connor Myers, now in Double-A Tennessee: “Every day he comes to the ballpark, he’s smiling and so happy. And everything he does for the community and the kids in the game... he really just gets it. As a broadcaster, he’s a joy to be around because his kindness is so uncommon. I’ve never seen someone in this organization stand out the way he does in valuing what he does for a living and sharing that with other people.”
Myers is one I remember from my most recent trip to Mesa’s back fields. Seeing him with his extended family, I could see where he had garnered his respect and joy. They were respectful for others, and spending just a bit of time with them, I could tell the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
As he was leaving for a bus as his grandmother (I think) was telling him to be careful, Myers went with a line that I hope I’ll take with me for a few more decades. “I’ll be careful, but not too careful,” with a glint that represented joy and mischief at the same time.
Back at Des Moines, Ryan Court recently hit for the first Iowa Cubs cycle since 1997. Cohen emphasized the joy from Court that night, as well. When Alec Mills was rolling toward an unsuccessful bid at a perfect game? Anthony Bass in his time in Iowa? Sheer joy.
Quite often, we as fans get hung up quite exclusively on the wins and losses. The emotions get all tied up in that. Which is, to an extent, understandable. However, one of the enjoyable aspects of spending time tracking the pipeline is that the game itself is enjoyable. Especially when the players themselves are enjoyable.
We want Kris Bryant to return safely. We want the Cubs to have post-season success. However, somewhere in-between complaining about the line-ups and complaining when the other team plays well, remember to take in the bigger picture.
In a collision at second base, Javier Baez and Brewers catcher Manny Pina were recently introduced to each other. Baez, in very typical Baez fashion, acknowledged that he hoped Pina was okay. As Pina was sprawled, hanging onto the base, Baez did the next most logical thing. He shook Pina’s foot.
This team shows so much joy, throughout the system, that they’re easy to enjoy. Unless your happiness is keyed on the Cubs being a fourth or fifth place team. Whatever happens, find the happiness in it, regardless the level. I hope the joy in the Cubs pipeline rubs off on you. It certainly has on me, and I’d have it no other way. Having announcers at every stop in the minors that are fun listens, helps with my experience, as well.
Have a joyous day. I‘m over my 1,000 words for this picture.