Heyward appreciates Cubs being real, not ‘blowing smoke’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
“I'll say that I appreciate they’re real,” Heyward said during a 35-minute media session Thursday. “I appreciate being able to have that. It's tough when you don't have those things, showing up for any job or living life.
“If people were kind of blowing smoke and not keeping it real with you, it's tougher to get up every day and go to work or tougher to treat other people how you want to be treated. So, it was nice to have that in a sense.”
Cubs president Jed Hoyer announced last month Heyward would not be back in 2023, the final season of his eight-year contract with the team. The team will release him after this season.
Heyward hasn’t played since June due to a right knee issue, and with where the Cubs are in their rebuild, they have turned their attention to the future. They used this season to evaluate young players, including outfielders Christopher Morel and Nelson Velázquez.
It’s part of the reason why Heyward, a 12-year veteran, said he wasn’t’ surprised by the Cubs’ decision to move on from him.
“This team,” Heyward said of the Cubs, “where they're at right now and the things that they need to do, the other people they need to see play, the data they need to collect. All that type of stuff comes, again — talking about winning — it comes with a debt.
“I feel like there’s sacrifices you have to make. So I wasn't surprised when they said they would need to move forward and open up some opportunities for other people.”
As far as potential disappointment goes, Heyward pointed to seeing so many teammates leave in recent years and now him leaving the place he's called home since 2016.
Heyward is one of three players left from the Cubs' World Series team, along with Willson Contreras (who could be gone after this season) and Kyle Hendricks.
"I think watching people come and go, that's a disappointing thing," Heyward said. "When I say disappointing, it is reality. But that's probably the toughest part is separation, leaving what I feel like is going to be home."
Heyward said his plan is to play in 2023 and will wait to see what opportunities present themselves. He also plans to continue calling the city of Chicago home.
For now, he looks back on his time with the Cubs fondly — which coincided with the golden era of Cubs baseball and the franchise’s first championship since 1908.
“What a ride for this city, for this fan base,” Heyward said. “The love that I received, the love that we received, the guys who were part of those groups, is never taken for granted.”
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