Cubs' Russell getting a grip on handling fame
MESA, Ariz. -- Not many 22-year-olds get handed the key to their home city.
That happened this off-season in Pensacola, Florida, for Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, and the way things are going for this now 23-year-old young man, he may be able to call the world his own before too long.
Even at his tender age, Russell is one of the stalwarts of a world-champion team. His star has been rising for the past couple of years, and it sparkled during the World Series.
Now, everywhere he goes, people notice.
"This whole fame thing is completely new to me," he said Friday as position players officially reported for spring training. "It's all very cool stuff. I get to go home, and there was Addison Russell Day at Pace High School in November.
"There's a lot to take in. There's so much I want to tell my parents, but I just can't seem to find the time, because everything's going."
Russell said there was a point when it all hit him.
"I remember this past off-season going into my mom's room and laying down on her bed," he said. "That's when all the memories of this past year, all the way from spring training to the middle of the season, all-star and then the World Series run, it all hit me at once. It was overbearing, kind of. I started crying. That's when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment.
"I couldn't even really talk. I had the family around me. It's just kind of the way that I was brought up, too. It's very good to see that nothing has really changed. It's like a surreal moment right there. It really sunk everything in whenever the tears were coming down my face. I think that was one of the more happy moments of my life."
Russell has impressed everyone around the Cubs with his aplomb since they acquired him in a trade with Oakland in July of 2014.
Russell hit a grand slam in Game 6 of the World Series, and after the game he sat on stage and calmly talked about his exploits in front of the national media at Cleveland's Progressive Field.
"It happens all so quick," he said. "It's really hard to even grasp it. Whenever you're in that type of situation, there's something in the back of your mind that says, 'Remember this. Remember this.' Then you do."
Russell can get used to the fame and being noticed in places like airports around the country. He made his first all-star team last season on the way to putting up a regular-season batting line of .238/.321/.417 with 21 homers and 95 RBI and playing stellar defense. After going 1-for-15 in the division series against the Giants, Russell was 6-for-22 with 2 homers against the Dodgers in the championship series. He was 6-for-27 with the grand slam and 9 RBI in the World Series.
Even though this fame thing is new to him, Russell says he could get used to it.
"I love it," he said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be on the big screen. But it was a matter of getting there. I think a good work ethic, a great work ethic, a lot of confidence and a lot of supporters, and I definitely owe a thanks to all my fans. This is all so new. I'm just looking to build off of it and create a positive motive. If I could do that and maybe touch a kid's life here and there, that's the ultimate goal."
• Follow Bruce's reports from spring training via Twitter@BruceMiles2112.