Cubs: Looking back at Willson Contreras’ career at 100 home runs
On Monday against the Pirates, Willson Contreras hit an important milestone in his major league career. The Chicago Cubs catcher hit a grand slam to put the team up eight runs in the bottom of the first and reach the 100-home run mark. It’s a milestone for a Cubs catcher only matched by the great Jody Davis and legendary Gabby Hartnett and it’s the perfect moment to look back on Contreras’ career.
Contreras’ journey to Wrigley began over a decade ago now in 2009 when the Cubs signed him as an international free agent and since then, he’s twice been named an All-Star and proven himself to be one of the best catchers in the game. It all began during the most magical season in franchise history when he smacked that first career dinger in his first trip to the plate. It was a sign of things to come, but it didn’t tell the full story.
Despite it being a big deal that Contreras was on the 2016 World Series team, he still sort of fell by the wayside in the face of Miguel Montero’s heroics and David Ross’ swan song. When 2017 rolled around, he fully acquainted himself with Cubs fans thanks to his fire and incredible production to the tune of a 118 OPS+.
The dude worked and played hard from day one to make himself better. As Ross left, he took over as Jon Lester’s personal catcher, getting the best out of an already incredible pitcher. When his first All-Star nod in 2018 turned into a subdued second half, he worked tirelessly to turn it around in 2019. When his framing wasn’t up to snuff, he kept at it and slowly inched up the ranks. Every milestone and barrier broke seemingly meant the world to Contreras too.
Now, with his old teammates gone, he’s blossomed into a leader like Ross and Montero before him while still giving his team elite production. Not only that, but he managed to find a sense of peace amidst the coming trade rumors. Despite being a star, Contreras has lived for the team and their success, even in the face of something that could change the course of his career forever.
Willson Contreras has been the heartbeat of the Chicago Cubs for years now
As Contreras nears free agency for the first time in his career, it’s amazing to see how much he’s grown since he made his debut. With how much care, heart and soul he’s brought to the game, it’s unsurprising that he’s gotten this far. From seeing him tear up hearing about his first All-Star nod to watching him hug it out with his brother when exchanging lineup cards, it’s clear how much it all means to him as a reward for the constant struggle that is Major League Baseball.
I couldn’t get the smile off my face when Christopher Morel hit his first career homer on Tuesday night during his first at-bat. It’s not just the fact that one of the Cubs’ most promising prospects got his career off to the best start possible. It’s also that Contreras was right there, just as happy for Morel as Morel was himself. In that moment, it was as if the entirety of his career came full circle, being there for a young teammate who replicated what he had done years before.
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Our time watching Contreras in a Cubs uniform may or may not be coming to an end, but it’s almost comforting to see the strides he’s made. Now in his thirties, he’s reached the potential everyone saw in him with the mentality of a leader to boot. At 100 home runs, it’s a testament to the hard work and constant adjustments he’s made throughout his career and an assurance that he has plenty of great days ahead of him.