To understand the level of confidence Christopher Morel carries, look no further than the Cubs rookie’s big-league debut Tuesday night against the Pirates.
Morel went up to catcher Willson Contreras and first baseman Alfonso Rivas in the dugout. The 22-year-old was calling his shot; he was going to hit a home run.
When did Morel make the bold prediction?
“One inning before,” he said.
But Morel, whom the Cubs called up from Double-A Tennessee earlier in the day, wasn’t certain he was going to get an at-bat. He wasn’t in the starting lineup.
“I know but I got to be ready,” he said. “That’s what I told [manager David] Ross. When you need me, I got to be ready for this moment.”
Good thing he was prepared.
Morel pinch hit in the eighth inning and crushed a 417-foot homer that sailed over the bleachers in left field. It helped the Cubs beat the Pirates 7-0.
What was going through his mind after his prediction came true?
“I don’t know,” Morel said. “In this moment, I didn’t think too much. I just said, ‘Oh my God.’”
Morel was animated running around the bases, letting out a roar in his celebration with first base coach Mike Napoli and then toward the Cubs dugout as he rounded third base.
He was so animated that he missed the first base bag during his home run trot and had to go back and touch it.
“Touch the base,” said Morel, smiling, when asked what was going through his mind at that moment.
Contreras and the Cubs dugout erupted as the homer sailed to the bleachers. The Cubs catcher hopped over the dugout railing and jumped up and down with his shin guards on.
“It was amazing,” Contreras said. “He told me and I felt like he was going to get something done. But I was thinking of a base hit, just a blooper or something positive.
“Once I saw the ball going out, I was like, ‘That’s a no doubter.’”
Indeed. Morel’s homer had a 111.3 mph exit velocity and an expected batting average of 1.000.
That’s, by definition, a no-doubter.
“You knew it was gone off the bat and shoot man, that's the stuff you dream about,” Ross said.
The crowd was energetic from the moment Morel was announced as the pinch hitter by Wrigley Field public address announcer Jeremiah Paprocki.
“Once I heard his walk-up song, it was fire,” Contreras said of the atmosphere. “It reminded me of my first at-bat [in the big leagues]. There's a lot of people around and we’re just there for him.
“I wanted people to clap for him and support him. Stepping up in the big leagues to an at-bat is not an easy thing to do. … Thank God he got the right pitch at the right moment.”
There’s good reason for it to feel familiar to Contreras. Morel became the first Cub to homer in his first career plate appearance since Contreras on June 19, 2016 — which also came against Pittsburgh.
Ross also thought back on Contreras’ first homer in that moment — and a conversation he had with Morel this spring.
“He told me in spring training on the half field,” Ross recalled, “he's like ‘You're gonna see me this year.’
“He reminded me of that when I congratulated him on being here this morning. That’s impressive.”
Although Morel has played at Wrigley Field before, it was under much different circumstances. The Cubs brought him to Chicago from their alternate site in South Bend during summer training camp in the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season.
He talked before Tuesday’s game about how he expected the Wrigley atmosphere to be different this time around.
“Oof, it’s amazing,” he said. “I never thought the Cubs fans would give me this. This is amazing for me.”
His debut was everything he dreamed of.
“For sure,” he said. “It’s amazing.”