For Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, 2022 was his first All-Star appearance, marking an extra special point in his career and an experience he will never forget. It was just as special for Cubs catcher and three-time All-Star Willson Contreras, given the circumstances and people involved. Both players took the time to soak in all the festivities.
From the red carpet show to the interviews and game itself, Happ and Willy seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit. They even got a chance to reunite with former teammate and Cubs great Kyle Schwarber, who made his second consecutive All-Star appearance. Unfortunately, it was also the second appearance Schwarbs made in another uniform without a Cubs logo.
Happ’s First All-Star Experience
Happ told Marquee Network’s Boog Sciambi, “You can either not talk about it and push it down or be honest with yourself and say, oh, this is something that’s important to me. It’s something that I really want to do. It would mean a lot to me. And that’s how I felt. I didn’t want to shy away from those feelings. And I’m really proud of myself.”
Happ entered the All-Star break with the lowest strikeout rate (21.5%) and highest fWAR of his career (2.2 fWAR). Since the Cubs selected him in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, this is the potential out of Happ many envisioned. And if we’re being honest, there might be some home runs left on the table, which Happ could be saving for the second half of the season.
Happ entered mid-game as a defensive replacement in center field. He only saw one plate appearance but now has a perfect All-Star Game on-base percentage after drawing a walk against Detroit Tigers’ lefty Gregory Soto. It’s fitting that Happ’s only time up to bat came as a right-handed hitter. A big reason why Happ was an All-Star selection this season is because of the strides he’s made from that side of the plate. In 83 PAs against lefties this year, Happ is hitting .347 with a .404 wOBA and 161 wRC+.
The FOX broadcast did a nice job highlighting the switch-hitter’s ups and downs during the game when mentioning a conversation that took place last season between manager David Ross and Happ.
The More Contreras’s, The Better
For Willson Contreras, this year’s All-Star Game had an entirely different meaning. It was his third appearance in the Midsummer Classic, and his third start behind the plate, joining Gabby Hartnett as the only Cubs catchers to do so. That achievement pales in comparison to Willy’s chance to team up with his brother, Atlanta Braves catcher William Contreras.
A dream fulfilled. This was the first All-Star appearance for William Contreras. Not only did the Contreras brothers get to play on the same team, representing the National League, but they also hit back-to-back in the order with Willson preceding his younger brother William, of course.
Willson entered the All-Star break tied for second among catchers in the majors with 13 home runs. His brother William is having quite the breakout campaign with 11 homers of his own and a top-three percentile Max Exit Velocity ranking.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most outstanding performance by either player. The Contreras bros combined to go 0-3 with two strikeouts in the game. Nonetheless, the memories are batting 1.000. They made plenty of those.
With rumors swirling, the Cubs fan base has all but come to terms with Willson getting shipped off at the trade deadline for the team to acquire more prospects ahead of him becoming an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. There’s a distinct possibility this is the last celebratory moment for Contreras as a member of the Chicago Cubs. If that’s the case, I’m glad he was able to do it surrounded by family.
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