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Sara’s Diary, Day 62 without baseball: Happy birthday, Willson Contreras!

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Let’s distract ourselves from the pandemic with some highlights

Willson Contreras hits a solo home run against the Pirates in September
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

It’s no secret on this blog that Willson Contreras is my favorite player. Today is the Cubs’ All-Star catcher’s 28th birthday and I wanted to take a break from pandemic life to look back on some of my favorite Willson highlights. If you are a fan of dingers, bat flips, back picks and playing the game loud you have come to the right place. If you are Tyler Flowers, you should probably skip this entry.

Willson’s first at bat

It’s worth remembering that at the start of 2016 there didn’t seem to be a lot of room on the Cubs roster for Willson Contreras. After all, both David Ross and Miguel Montero were already on the team and Kyle Schwarber was still in the mix as the Cubs catcher of the future. However, when Schwarber blew out his knee the first week of the season it created space for a the young man from Venezuela who switched from playing third base to catcher on a bit of a whim. He was sent up to pinch hit in the sixth inning during ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and let’s just look at the first big league pitch Willson Contreras saw [VIDEO].

The kid has a knack for first pitches and big moments. He repeated that performance with the first pitch he saw in an All Star game two years later:

Willson Contreras bobblehead day

My love of the Cubs is well known in my office so it didn’t really surprise anyone when the Cubs promotional schedule came out in early 2018 that I walked into both of my supervisors’ offices and calmly explained I’d need to take May 11 for a personal day because it was Willson Contreras bobblehead day. No one blinked an eye as I explained that I had to be there early because the giveaway was limited and I couldn’t risk them running out.

That bobblehead is perfect, by the way. It has his stubble, a removable catcher’s mask and his signature Venezuelan flag arm sleeve that he wore every game until Rob Manfred decided that player expression in the form of arm sleeves and cleats was just too much fun for the Commissioner’s Office.

But by far the best part of this game was Willson Contreras’ absolutely insane performance [VIDEO].

He hit a grand slam in the first inning, a double in the fourth, an absolute monster home run to left field in the sixth, and a double down the line in the seventh for a seven RBI game. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, he picked someone off too, and you know you want to see that [VIDEO].

Willson says “No!”

Nobody throws runners out like Willson Contreras. This is not hyperbole, he catches an absurd number of baserunners who strayed a bit too far from the bag. He’ll back pick to first or third and has an insane move to second. His pop-time is in the 96th percentile of the league according to Statcast. But it’s hard to conceptualize what that looks like, so let’s just watch a montage of ridiculous throws:

And I am not even joking, sometimes he literally says “No!”

The most exciting catcher in baseball is Willson Contreras. No one plays the game of baseball with as much heart and intensity. Fans or no fans in the stands, I fully expect more bat-flipping big things in his future. Here’s hoping his birthday gives him half as much joy as he gives Cubs fans each season.