Dexter Fowler played his first game at Wrigley Field on Friday since he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals over the winter.
The Chicago Cubs welcomed him with open arms — and one shiny, gleaming present.
Fowler received his World Series ring from Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward during a pregame ceremony, drawing loud cheers on a picturesque day at the iconic neighborhood ballpark. Fowler then posed for a picture with his former teammates, manager Joe Maddon, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and general manager Jed Hoyer.
The 31-year-old Fowler got another loud ovation when he stepped to the plate in the first inning, and he hit a drive to right for his 23rd career leadoff homer. He clapped his hands as he approached home, and a fan threw the ball back on the field.
“Those are memories. Those are memories that you’ll never lose,” Fowler said before the game, looking back on the run to last year’s title. “Like I said, getting the ring is like closing a chapter on my life.”
It was the second ring handed out by Rizzo in less than a day. The All-Star first baseman got engaged to his longtime girlfriend during a boat trip on Lake Michigan on Thursday, complete with fireworks.
“I texted Riz yesterday. I said good thing he’s practicing,” Fowler cracked.
A grinning Rizzo said Fowler also asked if the fireworks were in honor of his return to Chicago.
Fowler was acquired by the Cubs in January 2015 in a trade with Houston. He provided a steady presence on top of the lineup during two successful years with the team, culminating in the franchise’s first championship since 1908. The center fielder hit .276 with 13 homers and a .393 on-base percentage in 125 games last season, making the All-Star team for the first time.
The switch hitter signed an $82.5 million, five-year contract from the Cardinals during free agency.
“He goes about his business the same all the time,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Loves life. Loves the game. Loves his teammates, his former teammates. But he wants to win. It will be a great honor for him to get that ring today and that’s something he worked hard to achieve.”