Photos from the Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field on June 2, 2017.
Joe Maddon, the man of many catchphrases, had a special one for Dexter Fowler: “You go, we go.”
And so with Fowler at the top of their lineup last season, the Cubs went all the way to their first World Series title since 1908.
Then Fowler really did go — to the rival Cardinals as a free agent after signing a five-year, $85 million deal – and the Cubs have struggled to fill his former leadoff spot since, using six players in that spot already this season.
The center fielder returned to Wrigley Field on Friday wearing the familiar red and gray for the visiting Cardinals in the first of a three-game series.
Fowler also showed up to receive his World Series ring — and hit a leadoff home run off John Lackey.
A day after Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo proposed to his girlfriend, Emily Vakos, he and outfielder Jason Heyward presented Fowler with the ring, which boasts 214 diamonds weighing 5.5 karats, not to mention three more karats of red rubies and 2.5 more of sapphires.
“I texted Rizz yesterday and said good thing he’s practicing,” Fowler said of giving him his ring. “He practiced last night giving the ring out. I’m excited to do it here in front of the fans and the old squad.”
A video tribute played on the video board in left field and the still-filing-in crowd cloaked Fowler with a roaring applause as he met Heyward and Rizzo behind home plate, where he tried on the ring.
A giant still shot of a smiling Fowler then flashed on the board with the headline: “Welcome back Dexter Fowler.”
Fowler posed for pictures and shared hugs with old friends before retreating back to the Cardinals dugout, the enemy once again.
He said he had only seen renderings of the ring before getting his hands on the real thing Friday, and that Rizzo and Kris Bryant told him “it’s huge.”
“I go, ‘How big is it?’” Fowler said. “We basically took a glass of water and put it on my hand.
“I don’t know if I’ll be wearing it anywhere. It will probably go in the trophy case.”
Fowler was showered with adulation once more as he dug into the batter’s box before battering a Lackey offering a long way into the right-field bleachers.
“We always did struggle when he struggled or when he got hurt,” Maddon said. “But when he’s playing at his best, he was a catalyst, and not just from the fact of getting on base. Just his personality.
“He smiled easily, he played the game with a lot of joy and he is good in the clubhouse. Of course we miss that. We can’t deny that.”