NEW YORK — It was almost like a family reunion between Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs on Friday afternoon at Yankees Stadium.
He was on the pitch talking to former teammates and technical staff, and why not? Rizzo was an integral part of the Cubs for 9½ seasons and helped them win a World Series title in 2016.
Friday wasn’t the first time he’s seen his former teammates since being dealt to the Bronx Bombers last summer. For example, Rizzo hung out with outfielder Ian Happ on Friday morning. Rizzo is also in contact with outfielder Jason Heyward and manager David Ross via text throughout the year.
“We are still in constant contact. It’s just good to see their faces [today]”, Rizzo said. “…It’s just refreshing to see people in person rather than texting on the phone.”
Rizzo faces the Cubs for the second time in his career. The last time he played against them was as a member of the Padres on September 28, 2011 in San Diego. In that match, Rizzo went 0 for 3 with a walk. In 2012, he was a member of the Cubs and he thrived in Chicago.
Rizzo acknowledged that when he plays at Wrigley Field again, it will be emotional for him, but in a good way. Even though he’s been gone for almost a year, Rizzo is still kept up to date with what’s going on with the team. He knows, for example, that first baseman Frank Schwindel got off to a slow start and was picked in May.
“Now he’s fine. It’s fun to see,” Rizzo said. “You have guys who have been in this game for a while and now have the opportunity. The opportunities in this game when you get older are not easy to come by.
“PJ Higgins hitting his first home run was fun to watch from afar. I know how long he’s been in the organization and the type of person he is.
Yes, he misses Chicago, but Rizzo is enjoying his time with the Yankees. After all, they have the best record in baseball. Rizzo was also an integral part of it. Along with being an excellent defensive first baseman, Rizzo was productive at the plate with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs Friday, both second on the team behind Aaron Judge.
“Coming [to New York] was an amazing opportunity last year to join a team that was fighting and winning,” Rizzo said. The atmosphere and culture here is amazing, coming back [in the offseason]. … Being in first place helps. But it’s all the little things related to it that have been a lot of fun this year.