Of all the fielder’s gloves that wind up lying around the dugout during Cubs batting practice, only one has the yellow smiley-face emoji patch at the base of the thumb.
“It was my idea,” rookie Chris Morel said when asked about his glove. “Because every time I try to smile in the field.
“You’ve got to have fun on the field,” he said, “have good moments. So every time I have good days or bad days, I see my glove, and I have fun.”
It must be the emoji. Or the glove.
Or the bat or the arm or the speed or the power or the acumen or the charismatic energy that hasn’t been seen around here since — well, none of us can remember.
In 15 games in the big leagues, Morel has taken the Cubs clubhouse, leaderboard and Wrigley Field fans by storm, culminating — so far — in his first career walkoff Wednesday, when he hit the 10th-inning sacrifice fly that beat the Brewers 4-3 and put him at the center of an infield celebration of teammates pounding him on the head and back and spraying him with water.
Just one more career first for the versatile fielder who has grabbed the leadoff spot by the throat and reached base a Cubs-record 15 consecutive games to start his career.
“He’s been coming through for us for, uh, a while now,” manager David Ross said, “in a lot of different ways. He’s one of those guys you just can’t wait till he gets back up, when the top of the lineup turns over. He’s that spark.”
That’s a word that Ross used three times in barely a minute of postgame comments Wednesday on Morel.
The only words teammates and Ross have used more when talking about the new guy in the last two weeks have been energy and fun.
After one more night of production that also included a first-inning walk and eventual steal of third that led to a throwing error and the first two runs of the game, we can add one more: tireless.
“I love baseball. I love it,” he said when asked if he ever gets tired. “God gave me this moment, so I need to give everything, every time I go on the field. Inside or outside the field, I give everything for my team.”
“It’s infectious,” Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. “When a guy like that brings that positive energy, with a smile on his face every single day, it permeates to everyone in that clubhouse. Everyone picks up and feeds off his energy.”
That’s why Ross said he has no plans of moving him out of his role as the Cubs’ everyday centerfielder anytime soon, or out of the leadoff spot.
It’s why mentor Willson Contreras said Morel deserves to stay in the big leagues.
Why he makes it easier to see at least a little bit into what that “next great Cubs team” Jed Hoyer talks about might look like — if not quite when the rest of it might show up.
He certainly seems to be a lot of what fans — and teammates who figure to stick the next few years — want to see in that next group.
“The spark that he has at the top, I don’t know,” Ross said, “it’s contagious.”
Morel called the mob scene after the walkoff “amazing for me” and thanked God, his family, country and hometown.
“Such a cool moment. You saw how happy everybody was for him,” said Hendricks, who was as impressed as anyone in the clubhouse Wednesday with the way the 22-year-old kid with 56 big-league at-bats regrouped after falling behind 0-2 — taking a close pitch for a ball, then taking a deep breath (at the urging of Contreras on deck), then delivering the fly to center.
“To be able to slow the game down like that, that quickly, right away, just shows how natural the game comes to him,” Hendricks said. “There’s guys that were just meant to play baseball.”