Not long before first pitch of the Cubs-Tigers game in Detroit on Wednesday, news of the NBA players canceling three playoff games had spread, and the Cubs hurriedly tried to settle on the best plan of action.
Ultimately, they listened to Jason Heyward. He planned to sit out, but wanted his teammates to play the game.
“There was discussions. There were multiple guys saying they weren’t comfortable going out there and playing if I wasn’t going to go out there,” Heyward said after the Cubs’ 7-6 loss. “They didn’t want to leave me hanging.
“I let them know, encouraged them, ‘Go play the game. I don’t think the game should be canceled, but I think I have to do what I have to do.’ That’s another reason I was out there in the dugout supporting them, because they support me every single day through this. I’m right there with them fighting the fight.”
Heyward said he didn’t have to approach David Ross to discuss the situation. Ross invited him into the manager’s office first.
“Before I could even get myself together to talk to our manager, he called me in his office and opened the floor to me and said, ‘Hey, I’m starting to see how this is playing out. I want to help you make a decision. What do you feel like we need to do? Whatever it is, we support you,’” Heyward said.
“After having that conversation with Rossy, I knew I was feeling I needed to be a part of what’s going on. We made these statements together as a players alliance. If we just went out there and played tonight and ignored what the NBA is doing, and ignored what is happening right now, then I feel like that would be going back on our word.”
Ross said he was fine with whatever the players decided to do. Three MLB games were not played in protest of the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. — Brewers-Reds, Padres-Mariners and Giants-Dodgers.
Heyward suggested those were easier calls, since the shooting happened in the Brewers’ home state and the West Coast teams had more time to think.
Ross said he did not have any contact with Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire before the game, but got close to a point where he was ready to track down the cell phone number.
“There’s no handbook,” Ross said. “I literally told the guys, ‘I don’t know. I will stand by all you guys with whatever we decide and supporting Jason is No. 1.’ And he wanted us to play, so that’s what we did.
“He has been such a leader for us in so many ways. I wanted to get him in here and let him speak freely. It was an emotional conversation, as real as it gets.”
After the game, Anthony Rizzo delivered some strong comments about the state of the nation. He is still angry and frustrated about the lack of meaningful response to the shooting at his alma mater, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17.
“I’ve gone through a lot with my high school and (stuff) doesn’t change,” Rizzo said with anger in his voice. “It’s just the fact of the matter. Politicians don’t really give a (expletive) about us, all they care about is their own agenda. This is just the way it is and it’s upsetting and I’m sorry to use that language and go off, but it’s upsetting.”
Rizzo did have a suggestion for how things could improve.
“Just have some common sense in the world,” he said. “It just feels like we’ve lost all common sense. It’s so extreme one way or the other. No matter which way you go. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a second and just see the other side one time.
“Whatever side you’re on, it doesn’t matter. Just have some common sense. There’s common ground everywhere. The American people, that’s what we’ve been built on and you’ve seen it get away. It’s sad. It’s sad what’s going on in our country right now.”
The Cubs left Detroit after losing two of three to the Tigers. They are off Thursday, then have four games scheduled this weekend in Cincinnati. Is it possible one of those games could be canceled?
“I can’t see anything,” Heyward said. “I couldn’t see this coming today.”
Added Ross, “This is not the end of the conversation, I would say. Like Jason said, we’ll navigate tomorrow.”