Newspaper article International New York Times

Young Stars of Chicago Cubs Making Their Own History ; Nearly All Its Top Players Are on the Upside, Not the Downside, of Their Careers

Newspaper article International New York Times

Young Stars of Chicago Cubs Making Their Own History ; Nearly All Its Top Players Are on the Upside, Not the Downside, of Their Careers

Article excerpt

These are giddy days for the Chicago Cubs, not just because they are winning but because of how. For a franchise stalked by history, everything feels new.

Before the third game of the Chicago Cubs' division series on Monday, their first at home in the postseason in seven years, Kyle Schwarber came out early and sat in the stands.

A year ago, he had been playing in the instructional league, a newly drafted catcher from Indiana University. In a few hours, he would be stationed in left field in the playoffs, in front of the famous ivy wall at Wrigley Field, facing the mighty St. Louis Cardinals with more than 40,000 fans going wild around him. He took it all in before it happened.

"I was just trying to visualize what it was going to be like tonight, kind of control the emotions and try to see what the atmosphere was going to be like in my own head," Schwarber said after the Cubs had won. "The fans surpassed my expectations."

Those fans roared in Game 3 and roared even more in Game 4, until they sang along to "Go Cubs Go!" after the final out of the series. The players, having ousted the Cardinals, doused one another and bounced around the clubhouse before returning to the field to find their families and revel with the fans. It was their first postseason clincher in the history of Wrigley Field.

"I look around this field, and I think of all the millions of people that have given so much love to this team for so many years," said Tom Ricketts, the Cubs' owner and a lifelong fan of the team. "I don't care about me. I just want to pay them back."

These are the giddy days for the Cubs, not just because they are winning but because of how. For a franchise stalked by history -- 107 years without a championship, 70 years without a National League pennant -- everything feels new and fresh.

"The pressure and the history doesn't really bother these guys," said Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations. "They're young, they're innocent in a great way. You think they're worried about history? They're worried about getting their laundry done in time for Saturday."

The everyday players are mostly just starting their ascent on the field and up the salary structure. The hard roster questions -- can they keep this player, and at what cost, before free agency? -- are mostly years away. There are few, if any, prominent players on the downside, no creaky, broken-down bodies that used to be so full of life.

From Schwarber to Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo to Jorge Soler, Addison Russell to Javier Baez, stars in their 20s are everywhere.

"You're telling me!" said David Ross, the 38-year-old backup catcher, who has played for seven major league teams. "I'm starting to have a complex, how bad I am, I'll be honest with you. These guys are so darn good.

"It's nice for me, as an older guy, to feel like I'm a part of something special that's growing. …

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