Javy Baez provides two huge reasons for hope before Wrigley debut
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 7, 2014 10:26PM
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:29AM
DENVER — As if Friday weren’t already the day the circus comes to Wrigley Field, Javy Baez made sure on Thursday to raise the roof on the big top a few hours before leading the clowns and lion tamers down Clark Street.
Two days after making his heralded major-league debut, the Cubs’ long-touted prospect delivered a powerful, breakout performance — including nearly 800 feet of home runs — and pronounced himself ready for the homestand opener/BaezFest.
Told that fans might be waiting for him in sold-out force for his home debut, he said, “I hope so.”
About the time Baez’s second homer of a 6-2 victory against the Colorado Rockies sailed over the wall in right-center field in the eighth inning, fewer than 850 tickets remained on StubHub for the series opener on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s going to be more exciting than here,” said Baez, Baseball America’s seventh-ranked prospect. “We’ve got all the support from the fans, and there’s a lot of people that know you and want you to do good.”
Even in his debut on the road in Denver on Tuesday, a small but vocal throng of Cubs fans near the visiting dugout held up Baez signs and cheered loudly for the slugging second baseman every time he came to the plate.
By Thursday, the 21-year-old was doing things Cubs rarely — if ever — have done.
According to Cubs’ research, he’s the first Cub since at least 1914 to produce his first multihomer game within the first three games of his career — and he’s only the second Cub with at least three homers total in his first three games over that period of available stats (Joe Cunningham, 1954).
He’s believed to be the youngest Cub with two homers in a game since 20-year-old Ron Santo in 1960.
“It didn’t surprise me too much. I’ve seen it for a couple of years,” said rookie Kyle Hendricks, Thursday’s winning pitcher and former minor-league teammate of Baez. “He always thrives on the big stage. Every time he plays in a big game he always does well.”
That included a home run in last month’s prestigious Futures Game in Minneapolis.
“I haven’t been nervous or anything,” Baez said. “I’ve been slowing the game down and thinking about the situation.”
Until his run-scoring single in the third, Baez was off to a 1-for-11 start but didn’t seem to lack for confidence. And clearly didn’t second-guess his love of swinging big.
“No matter how many at-bats I miss, I’m just going to keep doing my thing,” he said, “and try to get better.”
“His thing” has brought a palpable emotion to the clubhouse and trending hashtags to Twitter.
“There’s a lot of energy with some of the young guys being brought up, especially with Baez being one of them,” Hendricks (3-1) said. “It’s fun having him around.”
Said pitcher Jake Arrieta: “It’s pretty exciting to see what’s going on in the last few days.”
Strangely, the excitement seemed to stop at the door of the Cubs business and marketing office — which, after years of selling the kids in this long and losing rebuilding plan, pretended not to notice one of the most exciting prospects in the system was coming to town. Eight hours after the first of three requests, the Cubs refused to provide ticket sales trends this week.
“We do not plan to share sales data for games or homestands based on roster activity,” read the email from Julian Green, spokesman for one of the most dollar-grabbing, attention-seeking business departments in the majors in recent years.
It’s not likely to dampen the mood or expectations — or even sales — for what suddenly looks like the most anticipated home debut for a Cubs rookie in recent memory.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Baez said. “I’m ready for anything.”