Addison Russell, at 22-years-old, is already a Major League Baseball All-Star. As of three weeks ago, he also became just the second Cubs shortstop to hit 20 HRs and knock in 90 RBIs in the same season. The other? Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks.
It’s needless to say that Russell has a very bright future. But what’s scary is that his team’s future may be even brighter.
Depending on who you ask or the statistics being compared, the Chicago Cubs just finished probably their best season ever, winning 103 games for the first time since 1910.
It was 1908, four years before the sinking of the Titanic, when the Cubs won their last World Series, the longest championship draught in sports history. But with such a commanding team in 2016, led by players such as Russell, the Cubbies have the most legitimate shot at going all the way for the first time in generations.
Preparing for possible history
Crave: I wanna hear first how you guys are preparing for the playoffs this year. You had a heartbreaking series against the Mets last season. You have a lot of unfinished business.
Addison Russell: Absolutely. We’ve all been getting our reps. And we’ve also been getting our rest, which is even better. We got a workout today. The daily regimen really hasn’t changed … We’re ready to get underway. I think we’re feelin’ pretty good right now.
How is it different playing in the playoffs as opposed to the regular season? How different does the atmosphere feel, especially as a Cub?
It’s just everything is magnified. Especially with an organization like the Chicago Cubs, especially in October. It seems like everyone is into every pitch, every pitch count, every play. Everything is just magnified to the max.
And I’m sure you hear ‘1908’ all the time. How do you block out all that noise?
I guess we just tune it out the best we can. 1908 has nothing to do with us personally, but I feel like we kinda take that challenge, that we want to do good by the city and do our best to come out on top. The fans have been supporting us all year and the smallest thing we can do is give back to the fans.
The nucleus: Kris Bryant #17, Addison Russell #27, Ben Zobrist #18, and Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs chat during a break in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 7, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Crave: I was at Wrigley just a couple weeks ago and was really impressed by the fans. How would you describe them?
Addison Russell: Die hard. They’re very cultured and the ‘Wrigley way.’ They know the history. They know the people. They know the atmosphere. It’s just unbelievable. I think at a young age, here on the north side, everyone is taught ‘go Cubs, go!’ right next to the ‘Pledge Of Allegiance.’ … They love the players. They love Wrigley. They love everything brought to the table.
How often do you get noticed when you’re not in your uniform?
About every time I step out now. It’s pretty different than what I’ve experienced in the past but it’s all a blessing and everyone says, “hey, what’s up?” And it’s all just good vibes. I feel very fortunate to be in the situation that I’m in and be looked at as a role model.
What’s your best story regarding contact with a die hard fan?
Oooooph, ya know you get your average, “hey can I take a pic?” Or an autograph. But I’ve got a few, “can you sign my hand?” “My shoe.” I don’t think anything crazy. The fans here in Chicago — and when we’re on the road — have been pretty kind.
What will Chicago do if the Cubs win?
Crave: Wrigleyville can get pretty rowdy. What do you think would happen if the Cubs were to go all the way?
Addison Russell: Ah man, we would probably have to get escorted out of Wrigleyville because it’s gonna be pretty packed. I remember last year, first round, the streets were packed as well. Just to see that from afar gives me chill-bumps. I would say really there’s no prediction, especially this year with how pumped the fan base is. I know they’re going to be tuning in to every single pitch … I think it’s just gonna be crazy.
Outside Wrigley Field: The Bleacher Preacher holds up a sign with a message for St Louis Cardinal fans after the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Four to win the National League Divisional Series on October 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
The best thing ever …
Crave: Not that the Oakland Athletics aren’t a fine organization, but I think it’s safe to say that your trade to the Cubs was one of the best moves for your career. It’s worked out very nice for you so far. Other than that trade, what’s the best thing to ever happen to you?
Addison Russell: Other than being traded, I would say having kids. It’s given me a sense of pride and humbleness that I never thought I would be able to feel towards another human being. Especially being so young, it opens up my eyes to how much love I can give as a father. It’s an amazing feeling. Very rewarding.
Crave: Ben Zobrist rode his bike to Wrigley in full uniform a couple weeks ago. You guys like to have a lot of fun. And you embrace it and you’re shameless about it. What else can you tell me about your teammates that’s fun that won’t get you in trouble?
Addison Russell: Well, you got grandpa Rossy (David Ross). He’s just overall, a great guy. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t want people calling me ‘grandpa,’ but it seems like he just kind of embraced it. Fans would chirp at him from the dugout and he would chirp right back … Everyone loves him. Grandpa Rossy is definitely going to be a Chicago legend.
Note: David Ross is 39-years-old.
David Ross, aka “Grandpa Rossy,” and Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs look on prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 27, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Will 2016 finally be the Cubs’ year?
Crave: There’s been a lot of great Cubs teams in the past. How is this year’s team different?
Addison Russell: Because we come to the field every single day with a simple goal as a team. That’s just something I’ve never been part of. It’s not necessarily to win every single game, but to get better every single game. And with that approach, with 162 games, trying to get better each day, there’s just a continuous growth there. That’s the biggest thing I’ve seen … It’s just the second year this team has been together. Last year we got a little taste of it but this year I think we really took it up to the next level because we were more familiar with each other and were able to just pick each other up this whole year … Every one is a good teammate on this team and every one is excited to be here.
You might be having a rematch with the Mets. Madison Bumgarner and the Giants, Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, of course the Nationals are stacked — is there a playoff team that scares you most?
Nahhh. I wouldn’t say there’s a team that scares us … Every team we go on the field with, it’s definitely gonna be a dog fight … Regardless of the team we play, we’re gonna play our style of baseball that we’ve been playing all year and hopefully it works out for us.
Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs is greeted by his teammates after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the seventh inning on September 19, 2016 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Is there a team that personally you would like to face? A team you would look forward to facing?
Ummm, I would say the Mets. I would like to face the Mets. I didn’t get a chance to play during that series last year. I wouldn’t say it’s anything like revenge, I would just like to play against the Mets. They’ve been good all year. They have tremendous ballplayers. When we play each other it’s always a tug of war.
If you could say anything to them before the playoffs, because we all know they have high hopes, what would you say to Cubs fans?
I would say thank you for sticking by us. Thank you for being die hard Cubs fans. We’re gonna be the best Cubbies we can be, play our best and we’re gonna try to come out on top as always .. You’re looking at young group and we’re gonna be with each other hopefully a while.
And the fact you guys are all so young I think scares a lot of Cardinals fans.
Yeah. Absolutely. We have a lot more years to play hopefully with the Cubbies. I know I’m excited … I think the sky’s the limit.
Addison, what do your teammates call you? What’s your nickname?
Everyone just calls me Addy.
I wish you the best, Addy. I’m a Cardinals fan and I will be rooting for you guys in the playoffs.
Well thank you. We appreciate it.
Addison Russell is a spokesman and partner with MET-Rx. The All-Star shortstop uses the brand’s products for fuel before training and for recovery after.
Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports.