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When Ian Happ got back to the Cubs’ locker room at Wrigley Field Sunday afternoon, his manager had a gift waiting for him.
A bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label was there to commemorate his 100th career home run. It joins a growing collection of gifts Happ has received for career milestones.
With his first-inning home run off of Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, Happ became only the 26th player in Cubs franchise history to reach triple digits in his career home run total. Getting there took him just 637 career games.
“One hundred homers, that fast, is pretty impressive. Especially from a switch hitter,” manager David Ross said. “Guy’ has had a really nice year, and I think that’s just one of those icing on the cake for the year he’s having.”
Happ also has a bottle that he got from Wade Miley for making his first All-Star appearance this season. Going into Sunday’s game against the Brewers, Happ had a .801 OPS, making this his first season of at least 100 games played with an OPS above .800 since his rookie year in 2017.
It has taken Happ a lot of hard work and perseverance through struggles in 2018 and 2019 to get to this point in his career. After his impressive rookie season, Happ batted .233 with 15 home runs in 2018, and he started the 2019 season in Triple-A Iowa. Reaching the 100-homer milestone Sunday is one testament to what Happ has accomplished, not just in counting stats, but in working to mature as a player.
“It’s humbling and it’s something I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
There was a chance this moment would not have happened at Wrigley Field, Happ’s home ballpark for the entirety of his career. Not just because he reached 99 home runs a week ago while the team was still on a road trip, but because there were significant rumors that he might be traded at the Aug. 2 deadline.
“This was one of the things that as the deadline was going past, I wanted to get to 100 before my time here was done,” Happ said. “Being able to be here and get a chance to do it is really special.”
Happ had 97 career home runs going into the trade deadline, and he had not hit one since July 12 at that point. Had he been traded, as it was expected he could, Happ would have likely reached 100 home runs before too long. But he would not have been able to do it wearing the uniform he has donned for the entirety of his major league career.
“It’s really cool to have a milestone like that and achieve it in this ballpark,” Happ said.
He reached 100 homers in a year when he has been hitting less of them than usual.
Happ’s overall home run rate is actually down some this season. His home run to fly ball ratio is 12.9% this year; that’s the lowest it has been in his career and about half what it was in 2021 when he hit 25 home runs. Some of the decrease in homers is probably due to a dip in his hard contact and fly balls rates this year, but Happ has still had one of his most productive seasons. He already has 31 doubles in 2022, far surpassing his previous season high of 20. Happ’s overall performance, especially at the plate, draws nothing but praise from Ross.
“We talk a lot about clubs in your bag, and he’s brought a lot of different clubs,” he said. “And it’s been from both sides of the plate. Just a very well-rounded, solid big-league player.”
Ross noted Happ’s improved defense in left field — he has been worth six Defensive Runs Saved in that spot so far this season, compared to two last year — and Happ has succeeded in doing a lot of the small things successfully as well. Most recently, in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Brewers, Happ stole third base in the tenth inning. That set him up to score the tying run on Franmil Reyes’ sacrifice fly.
Along with the Blue Label he got on Sunday, Happ still has a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne from Jon Lester that he got for his first career home run. That one he hit in his major league debut on May 13, 2017 in St. Louis. It was a two-run shot in the 7th inning off of Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez.
Fittingly, Lester was in attendance Sunday for Happ’s 100th homer, this one a towering, 387-foot blast through the wind and into the seats in right field.
There isn’t a dedicated room in his home for all of the keepsakes he is gathering for his career accomplishments so far, Happ said, but he may need one before too long.
“You start to accumulate stuff like that,” he said, “and it’s pretty cool when you look around and have a bunch of those.”
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