Jon Lester returns to Wrigley Field for the first time since signing with the Washington Nationals on Monday and Chicago Cubs manager David Ross hopes the left-hander will be welcomed back with open arms.
"I hope that the fans give him the welcome back he deserves," Ross said, according to The Athletic's Patrick Mooney and Maria Torres.
"He means a lot to me. He means a lot to this organization. He's done a lot for (so many) guys in this clubhouse. Fans recognize that. The Cubs nation that I know will be super appreciative and give him the love that he needs. I don't care if it's 20,000 or 20% (capacity). I sure wish that place was packed for him, (so he could) feel the love that a lot of people have for him."
Lester departed in free agency last January after spending the previous six seasons with the Cubs. He was ultimately offered a last-minute deal from the team. However, it wasn't as appealing as the one-year, $5-million deal he received from the Nationals. In the end, Lester admitted leaving Chicago was disappointing.
During his Windy City tenure, the 37-year-old anchored Chicago's rotation, helping them win a World Series in 2016. He also represented the Cubs in two All-Star Games and was a 19-game winner the same year Chicago won the Fall Classic.
The southpaw was not only an effective pitcher for the Cubs but a popular sports figure thanks to his gestures off the field, which included putting nearly 5,000 beers on his tab last Halloween.
"I can't say enough good things about Jon," Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks said. "He was a true winner and a competitor, (no matter) what he was able to take out to the mound. The way he was able to just scrap a game plan and figure it out shows how much he competes.
"But really it's just the work ethic. Bottom line - the consistency of the work ethic, what he put into it and his mindset. I learned so much from him every day that he was here that I'll be forever indebted to him."