By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) All the key Cubs leaders were on hand Friday afternoon to welcome back former closer Aroldis Chapman and present him with his World Series ring as his Yankees visited Wrigley Field for the start of a three-game weekend series.
Owner Tom Ricketts, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon congratulated Chapman on his job well done as he was presented his ring ahead of the after noon. During a pregame video and on-field presentation, Chapman hugged all four men, with a long embrace saved for Maddon.
Perhaps that was a bit surprising to some, considering that after signing with the Yankees this past offseason, Chapman shared his belief that he wasn’t utilized properly by Maddon in the playoffs. That’s in the rearview mirror for all parties, though, and Maddon has said on numerous occasions that the Cubs wouldn’t have won their championship without Chapman’s efforts in the closer’s role.
“I feel humbled by his comment,” Chapman said of Maddon. “I believe that team had a lot of talent. They had a lot of good players. Regarding my relationship with Maddon, we have a good relationship. We keep in touch here and there. It has not changed.”
Chapman was greeted by all of his former teammates from last season’s championship team when he was presented his World Series ring. Hugs and handshakes lasted a good five minutes.
“I hope he is greeted with nothing but praises,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “He laid it on the line for us. He gave us everything he had from the second he got here until the last out of the World Series. He was a big part of our successful run. Without him, on our roster, we are not winning the World Series.”
Although Chapman blew a save in the deciding Game 7 last November before the Cubs beat the Indians in extra innings, he has nothing but great memories of the historic run to a championship.
“It was a very exciting game,” Chapman said through the team translator. “Even when they tied the game, it was a tense moment for everybody. I can say it was one of the better games I have been a part of. It was a very exciting game.”
Despite being in Chicago for just more than three months last season, Chapman carries a great appreciation for the historic accomplishment, knowing the impact on the franchise and the city.
Only in Chicago for two months after being traded by the Yankees to the Cubs, Chapman does have a great appreciation for the historical event. He was aware of the impact on the franchise and city. As for the way he was used by Maddon?
“I always felt comfortable here in Chicago,” Chapman said. “During the World Series and the playoffs, those were the strategy they had. When you are fighting to win a championship, you must give everything you can. I gave everything I had and happily we came out champions.”
Maddon was glad to welcome back Chapman.
“He was one of the most important things we had going for us last year,” Maddon said. “We gave up a lot to get him. I think you would do that 11 out of 10 times.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.