Cubs pay tribute to Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber in their return to Wrigley

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Cubs pay tribute to Lester, Schwarber in their return to Wrigley originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The pitcher's mound at Wrigley Field is a familiar spot for Jon Lester. Left field carries the same lore for Kyle Schwarber.

Yet, as the two Nationals took the field in Chicago on Monday night, it was different. For the first time in Schwarber's career and the first time in a long time in Lester's, they were in those spots not wearing pinstripes with the Cubs logo near the chest. 

Both made their return to Wrigley Field for the first of a four-game series in Chicago after joining the Nationals in the offseason. And while they are no longer playing for the home crowd, the cheers and love they received were rather familiar.

Prior to the game, some of their former teammates showed appreciation for Lester as they arrived at the ballpark. Anthony Rizzo, the longtime Cubs first baseman who became incredibly close to Lester before and during their time together on the Cubs, sported his jersey on his walk to the stadium. Ian Happ broke out Lester's iconic western-style wardrobe as well.

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Schwarber also got a chance to catch up with a few of his old pals, and there were plenty of hugs to go around. 

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Schwarber received a tribute video before first pitch as well as a No. 12 from the Wrigley scoreboard presented by Cubs manager -- and Schwarber's former manager and teammate -- David Ross. He also received a standing ovation during his first at-bat in the first inning, in which he ended up grounding out to first base. 

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Drafted by the Cubs No. 4 overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, the catcher-turned outfielder quickly rose through the minor-league system and made his debut with the professional team in 2015. He quickly found success, tying the franchise record for postseason home runs with five as the team reached the NLCS.

In 2016, a knee injury early in the season forced Schwarber to miss the team's run to a World Series appearance. Yet, in late October he cemented himself as a legend in Chicago by coming back from the injury slightly earlier than expected to play in the Fall Classic. He hit .412 with seven knocks despite not seeing major league pitching in months.

From 2017-20, Schwarber became a staple in the outfield while mashing homers for the Cubs. However, inconsistencies at the plate prevented him from reaching another level, leading to Chicago letting him walk prior to the 2021 campaign.

As for Lester, he received a standing ovation from the Cubs faithful as he took the mound in the bottom of the first and then again when he came to bat in the third. 

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Lester joined the Cubs in 2015 after signing a free-agent deal that can be viewed as one of the most crucial in franchise history. Not only was Lester a major part of the culture change in Chicago, but his success and consistency on the mound were crucial to the success the franchise enjoyed in recent years.

Compiling a 77-44 regular-season record in six seasons, Lester had a few seasons in which he was part of the Cy Young race, but even when his best stuff wasn't there, the gamer in him made him someone the Cubs could always reply upon. He also had a knack for big games and postseason heroics, earning co-NLCS MVP honors in 2016.

Though neither was brought back for the 2021 season, it's clear they will always hold a special place in the heart of Cubs fans. In terms of booing in the bleachers, they may not hear much of it even with a different jersey on.