Not the way he imagined it happening, but Kipnis enjoyed first Cubs HR
When he spoke to reporters via Zoom call after Friday's game, Jason Kipnis was holding the first home run ball he ever hit as a member of the Cubs in his hands, already enclosed in a plastic case.
But the Northbrook native made it clear this wasn't the way he dreamed of his hitting his first homer at Wrigley Field. No one was in the bleachers to catch it or even watch it due to the pandemic.
"I wish it was in front of a full stadium or I wish that my family and friends were at the game," Kipnis said. "I take it for what it is and I enjoy it for what it is. I had a good time. I'll remember it always."
When he signed with the Cubs over the winter, Kipnis expected there to be plenty of good times with friends and family coming out to see him play.
Kipnis, 33, spent the first nine years of his major league career with Cleveland. He missed the end of last season with a broken wrist and the Indians decided to move on.
"Yeah, there's a lot of friends and family that have been champing at the bit to get out there and have been asking if there's any situation where we could start allowing fans in," Kipnis said. "I told them I'll keep them posted. I also told them it doesn't mean I'm going to leave them any tickets. They're still on their own for that.
"Until now, they're all watching on TV. My phone will blow up after anything that happens. The nice part is there's times where the ones that have been inside my close contacts that I know are safe, I can go and on a night like tonight, maybe enjoy a glass of wine on a rooftop somewhere with them. Which is something that playing at home brings that I've never had before."
So far, Kipnis is off to a great start with the Cubs, hitting .455 with the solo home run on Friday. He's not getting a ton of playing time, though, because the Cubs are committed to Nico Hoerner, one of the team's top prospects, at second base most of the time.
"Between (Kipnis), (David) Bode and (David) Descalso, we have three guys that have had success at the position and are just good people," Hoerner said before the season began. "When you're around good people it makes coming here every day and improving a lot easier. With Kip in particular, he's a guy who is very open about talking about the game and share things he's learned. He even asks me questions about things."
Hoerner has the highest batting average of any Cubs regular at .389. Horner, Kipnis and Bote have all led the charge for the bottom of the order, which has been the catalyst of the Cubs offense during the first week.
"I probably won't finish the season with a .455 average. Hopefully .420 or something," Kipnis joked, knowing his career average is .262.
"I like this lineup a lot because everyone competes, one through nine. I think you've seen the bottom of the order step up early on. All that is is buying those big boys time at the top of the order. Once they get going, that's when the real fun's going to start."
Kipnis played against the Cubs in the 2016 World Series. With a new era of his career underway, Kipnis was asked for his favorite memory of attending a game at Wrigley Field growing up.
"I was at an '03 postseason game, maybe a Mark Prior-pitched one against Atlanta," he said. "They were doing the chop back to Atlanta and the whole place looked sort of like a beehive. I absolutely adored it and that one sticks out the most."