If you compared Sunday’s Cubs game with that on July 26, the biggest difference probably would be a 30-degree temperature drop.
All kidding aside, just like the Cubs’ final home game before the trade deadline, the Wrigley Field faithful showered Willson Contreras with love in what might have been his final home game with the team.
Contreras, who’s set to become a free agent this winter, chuckled after Sunday’s 8-1 Cubs win when asked about having a few of these experiences this season.
But make no mistake: they all have meant a lot to him.
“That's why I wanted to come back and play this whole week,” said Contreras, who came off the injured list after missing about a month with an ankle sprain. “Because I don't know what the future holds.
“I don't know if this is going to be my last game with the Cubs or not, but I enjoyed the moment. If I have to redo it, I’ll redo it again, because I play for one of the best fanbases in baseball, and they make this place special. We play for them.
“So if I have to redo, I’ll redo it. I enjoy every moment because I've been here a long time, and I just wanted to take my moment out there and appreciate where I've played for the last six years.”
Contreras, who signed with the Cubs as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2009, climbed the organizational ranks to earn Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2015.
A big-league debut followed in June 2016, and only a few months later he was the starting catcher in five World Series games.
In seven seasons, he’s started three All-Star Games and hit 116 home runs, third in Cubs history among catchers.
“He's been a part of so much winning here from early on," manager and former teammate David Ross said. "Being a World Series starting catcher, Game 7, just that on your resume right there is pretty special. And then going through all that's gone on here.
“It was nice for him to get some love. He's got a lot of moments of love this year. It looked like he was taking those in. Those are special, special things that you don't ever forget as a player when you get to do that.”
Contreras received an extended standing ovation in his first plate appearance Sunday, and his last, in which he drew a walk. He got another when Ross then removed him for a pinch runner.
The entire Cubs team took the field after the win to acknowledge the 30,029 in attendance, clapping in unison to “Go Cubs Go.”
Contreras hung around afterward and received more love from the fans, also embracing his family around home plate.
It wasn’t officially the end; Contreras will travel with the Cubs to Cincinnati. But it may, officially, be the end of a chapter.
“I was just looking around, appreciating every single fan that came out in support of the last game of the season, and taking a moment in this special place,” Contreras said. “Wrigley Field is just nothing but special.
“Since the moment that I got here, I knew that this could have been my home for my whole career. But I got to the moment in my career that is like a dream coming true. I earned my spot in free agency, and I'm looking forward to it.”