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Pittsburgh Roots: Mt. Lebanon’s Ian Happ Glad for Commitment from Cubs

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Ian Happ

There was a time not long ago when it appeared Ian Happ’s days with the Chicago Cubs were all but over.

With the trade deadline approaching in 2022, the Cubs were reportedly willing to part with Happ to add younger talent. A deal seemed so inevitable that Happ received an emotional standing ovation from the Wrigley Field crowd on July 26 during his final at-bat in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, the Mount Lebanon High School graduate is still with the Cubs and serving as their primary left fielder. He doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon after signing a three-year, $61-million contract extension last year that carries through the 2026 season.

Happ couldn’t be happier to be with the organization that selected him ninth overall in the 2015 amateur draft following a standout collegiate career at Cincinnati.

“This is the place I’ve always wanted to be,” Happ said last weekend when the Cubs visited the Pirates in a three-game series at PNC Park. “It’s definitely the place for me and my family, so to be able to stick around and be a Cub for a long time – it’ll be 10 seasons when my contract is up – is pretty special. I want to be here and be part of winning teams and I feel we’re on track to do that.”

The Cubs are in second place in the National League Central with a 25-19 record and trail the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers by 1.5 games. Chicago missed the postseason by only one game last season.

Happ has gotten off to a slow start this season, though. He is hitting .219/.333/.301 with only one home run in 39 games. That is quite a contrast for a player who hit at least 11 homers in each of his first seven seasons in the big leagues, reaching 20 three times.

The 29-year-old has struggled with high-velocity pitching at times in 2024. He also admits it has become a little frustrating.

“Being in a spot where you’re on time so you can hit the fastball, even if you swing through the off-speed pitches early in the count, then you can make adjustments later,” Happ said. “That’s really the hardest part about facing high velocity every day is you become a little pull happy to get out front of pitches and guys kind of put you in a bad spot. I’m just trying to stay in the middle of the field and be aggressive with fastballs.

“It’s always process, process, process. But sometimes you just need those results, too, and I haven’t been getting them consistently.”

The Cubs open a four-game series with the Pirates on Thursday night in Chicago. That might be what Happ needs to break out of his hitting woes.

In 98 career games against the Pirates, he has hit .316/.404/.573 with 31 doubles, two triples and 17 home runs. His streak of reaching base in 61 straight starts against the Pirates, which began in 2018, is a major-league record.

Happ was more of a Cleveland Guardians fan while spending most of his formative years in Northeast Ohio. However, playing at PNC Park always gets Happ charged up. That carries over to games against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

“My first time coming back to Pittsburgh in 2017 as a player was a really cool moment but to keep coming back is great,” Happ said. “I always have family here. My high school coach is always sitting just behind the on-deck circle with his dad, who also coached me.

“It’s just really special those that you look up high in the left field stands where we would get tickets for nine bucks. “I’d always dream about playing in the big leagues every time we sat there, so it’s really cool that the dream has come to fruition. I never take it for granted, especially when we’re playing the Pirates.”

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Don

Nice to read about a pro with roots in Pittsburgh.

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