Fun-loving first baseman gets honors for daring grab, social media presence
By Alyson Footer
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo's hop onto the wall during a game at Wrigley Field last August may have been a singular highlight-reel type of a moment, but it also signified something much more complex about the Cubs' first baseman.
Rizzo's play in that game against the Brewers, during which he bolted into foul territory, ran past the rolled-up tarp, hopped up onto the wall and reached into the stands to snag a Keon Broxton popup, displayed a quality that most who watch him play daily have grown accustomed to: fearlessness.
"I know he's not afraid to try it, which I absolutely love," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He is fearless."
For that defensive gem, Rizzo received an Esurance MLB Award for Best Play, Defense, one of five awards the Cubs earned from their 2016 World Series championship season. The tech-savvy Rizzo also won for Best Social Media Personality pairing with former teammate and current celebrity dancer David Ross, who won for Best Social Media Post, for his group selfie he took at the World Series rally at Grant Park last November. Rizzo and his teammates received the hardware in a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field before their game vs. the Brewers on Monday.
Club president Theo Epstein won the Esurance MLB Award for Best Executive, and the Cubs and Indians shared an award for Best Trending Topic, achieved during the epic Game 7 of the World Series that went in the favor of the Cubs.
Esurance MLB Awards are voted on by broadcasters, reporters, front-office personnel, MLB Alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
The fan vote made this especially meaningful for Rizzo, who noted before Monday's pregame awards ceremony: "Whenever you're recognized by fans all over, it's amazing."
Count his manager as one of his biggest fans. Maddon, who described Rizzo as a "big kid" who doesn't worry about "superficial nonsense," loves Rizzo's approach as a defender -- aggressive, accurate and not afraid to err.
"You put him in on defense with the bunt, he's right in the hitters' face," Maddon said. "A lot of guys don't like that. He picks up the bunt, without even thinking throws a strike to second base, we turn a double play. He makes our infielders all better, every day."
Being a good defender means taking risks, as decisions are often made with split-seconds to spare. To Maddon, this is where Rizzo especially shines.
"You just attempt to do the right thing," Maddon said. "It means that if a pickoff's in order, try the pickoff. You're supposed to throw to that base and it's a somewhat dangerous looking play, just do it, because it's the right thing to do. If it doesn't work out, I don't care. Just try to do the right thing."
Maddon noted how cerebral Rizzo is about the game, nitpicking it from a mental standpoint while expressing insights Maddon said are as deep as anyone he's coached or managed in his career.
But Maddon appreciates Rizzo's simpler qualities, too.
"He was in [the clubhouse] pushing [Jon] Lester's kids around in a laundry basket before the game," Maddon said. "He's a big kid."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.