Courtesy of BODYARMOR, a sports drink, I was given the opportunity to speak with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo by phone this morning. What follows is a lightly-edited transcript of our call.
AY: Give me one word to describe the Cubs season so far.
AY: And a bit more detail about this season so far.
AR: It’s early and we’re still building. We’ve had a lot of injuries but we’ve weathered the storm. Losing Nico yesterday hurts, but the guys here in our clubhouse believe, and our bullpen is really strong. Our starting pitchers are all settling in, so we’re definitely building.
AY: You mention the injury to Nico Hoerner, obviously that’s a tough break. What is it like in the clubhouse after somebody gets hurt like that?
AR: It definitely helps winning the game, to kind of mask it. But when you see him go down, hobbling off the field, it sucks. He’s one of our everyday guys, he’s great in the clubhouse, he’s a hard worker. Seeing him continue to develop, have good at-bats, play good defense, it’s hard to see anyone go down like that.
AY: You were a teammate of David Ross, and you are good friends. What is it like now having him as your manager?
AR: It’s fun to see him go through all the moves every day, managing in the clubhouse. It’s definitely an attitude of being professional, doing things the right way, not taking your friendship for granted. It’s actually been a pretty easy transition.
AY: There were, obviously, no fans in the ballparks last year. What was that like, and what’s it like having fans back this year?
AR: I don’t think we really understood how miserable it was until we got fans back. Last year we were trying to trick the mind, everyone was dealing with the same elements. It was definitely a grind, having fans back helps with the everyday grind. We’re 40-something games in, last year we had 10-15 games left after that many, that seemed like 40-50 games. It makes a real difference having fans.
AY: Many Cubs fans and others see you as a team leader. Do you see yourself that way? What makes for a good team leader?
AR: First, it’s just how you play the game every day. Play hard, do the right thing on the field, stand up for your teammates. In the clubhouse, you see guys do certain things, just helping them out, picking them up when they’re down. For me, just be myself and continue to have fun, make sure other guys are having fun as well.
AY: Joc Pederson had a big day yesterday, starting to hit like everyone hoped he would. He’s one of the new guys this year, what is he like on and off the field?
AR: He’s great! He’s been very relaxed, has a good time, he’s always in a good mood. He’s very mellow, goes with the flow, it’s nice to see him get going with his offense now.
AY: Who is your funniest teammate?
AR: Right now, Jake Marisnick. He just brings good energy every day, we’re always laughing at something.
AY: Is he traveling with the team while he’s on the injured list?
AR: Yeah, he’s here [in Pittsburgh], always good energy.
AY: Who’s the best dresser on the team?
AR: Probably Jason Heyward. He can put on anything and look good in it.
AY: Back in spring training, you were interviewed on ESPN during a game and Javy Baez was asked if he could ask you anything, what would it be, and he said:
Javy Baez on what he would ask Anthony Rizzo, if he (Javy) could ask anything: "Can I use your boat?" pic.twitter.com/10xDM2FeSX— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) March 3, 2021
AY: So do you have a boat and would you let Javy borrow it?
AR: He hasn’t borrowed it yet, but I’m sure I’ll get him on the lake sometime this summer, we’ll be out there on Lake Michigan having a good time.
AY: Talk a little bit about BODYARMOR, your sponsor, who helped arrange this interview.
AR: I’ve been with them since 2016. The partnership has been great, the growth of the company has been amazing. By 2025 they hope to be the No. 1 sports drink in the country, in the world. I’m happy to be with them. It’s a healthy drink, it checks off all the boxes for an athlete like me so I don’t have to worry about what’s going into my body.
AY: You have been playing well on the road the last couple of series, but before that you got off to a bad start in road games even while you were doing very well at home. What’s the difference between playing at home and on the road and why do you think this happened?
AR: Basically, you’re at home, more comfortable when you’re sleeping in your own bed, your own house, going through your daily routine at home. Being on the road, with the travel, away from your family, it’s a number of variables. Number one is the energy at Wrigley that fans bring us every day. But there’s no excuse, to do what we want to do this year we have to play better on the road and we’re off to a good start on this trip. Winning the series here in Pittsburgh is the No. 1 priority.
AY: Anything else you’d like to say to Cubs fans?
AR: Just that we want to continue to build, to have confidence while we’re playing, and keep going good.
AY: Thanks! I appreciate your insights and your time. Here’s a recent social media post by Anthony on BODYARMOR:
Who else is ready for some baseball?! Hydrating with @DrinkBODYARMOR all season long #TeamBODYARMOR pic.twitter.com/0vRjmtr8E5— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) March 31, 2021
Thanks also to Josh Colfin and Caterine Barfell of BODYARMOR for arranging this interview for me and BCB.