Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon's departure are evidence of that.
"I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner," Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.
Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon's guidance. Maddon - a catcher himself in his short time as a player - never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it's clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years.
Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:
New painting! After their final game this year Willson reached out and asked me to paint this for him. Pretty clear how much Joe meant to these guys. pic.twitter.com/e2hps28edA
— Austin Ploch (@PlochArtwork) October 20, 2019
The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:
Socio was my pleasure to play for you and i cannot thank you enough, Was really special to have you as my 1st MLB Manager. Thanks for all the advices that I will never forget. You will always be remembered everywhere but The city of Chicago will always love you 🙌 #WorldSeriesChamps2016 #GreatHumanBeing
A post shared by Don Ernesto🤟 (@willsoncontreras40) on Sep 29, 2019 at 5:12pm PDT
Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We're not crying, you're crying.