CLEVELAND — Winning MVP honors in leading the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908 can leave a man with a lengthy list of people to share congratulations with.
But in the bedlam that ensued on Progressive Field after the pulsing, thrilling, maybe greatest-ever Game 7 given the 8-7, 10-inning win over the Indians and then in the wet-and-wild clubhouse, Ben Zobrist made sure to seek out manager Joe Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez, whom he shares a bond with from their Rays', and even Devil Rays', days, which started in 2006.
"It's really special," Zobrist told the Tampa Bay Times in the clubhouse. "The years that I spent with Joe and Davey in Tampa Bay, and the growth they helped me have as a player at that point, and then getting the chance to win this elusive championship with those two guys, that's really a special moment for me, and I think for them, too.
"I think I hugged them a little bit harder than everybody else."
The Cubs' championship is certainly Chicago's, 108 years in the making and roaring to be further celebrated today with an expected epic parade through the streets of the windy city.
But it is also, in part, Tampa Bay's, given the past employ of not only the MVP, the manager and the bench coach, plus four others of their uniformed personal:
Reliever Mike Montgomery, who just so happened to get the historic final out (and a shot in every highlight video made); inactive starter Jason Hammel; pitching coach Chris Bosio; and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske. (And from a local angle, East Lake High product Chris Coghlan as well.)
All had their moments after the historic achievement, and here are some of their stories:
• • •
Joe and Jaye Maddon have this little ritual, where after the Cubs clinch a playoff series he finds his wife on the field or in the tunnel and they hug, kiss and chat about what just happened.
But Wednesday was different.
"We couldn't even talk," Jaye said. "We were just like kind of laughing and chuckling a little bit. Aside from the obvious, 'That was awesome' and 'I love you' and 'I can't believe it' and that kind of stuff. … He doesn't have very many speechless moments."
• • •
Minutes before the greatest moment of her husband's career, the RBI double that would lead the Cubs to victory and him the MVP award, Julianna Zobrist was standing barefoot in the tunnel under the stadium and holding their 1-year-old daughter.
Told the rain delay that had the game on hold between the ninth and 10th innings would last at least 30 minutes, she had taken Blaise, plus older siblings Zion and Kruse, downstairs where it was dry.
"All of a sudden I hear people cheering and I realize (Anthony) Rizzo is up to bat and I'm thinking, 'Oh my word, I'm about to miss Ben's at-bat,' " Julianna said outside the Cubs clubhouse. "I handed Blaise off to my assistant. I had taken my shoes off so I'm racing through the tunnel, up the stairs and through the concourse barefoot carrying my 6-inch heels.
"So I get to the top of the stairs by my section. He takes a couple pitches and, I kid you not, he looks straight at me and I shake my head, yes. And he shakes his head, yes.
"And the rest is history. Literally, the rest is history."
• • •
Montgomery had a valid reason to keep saying he was just happy to be here with the Cubs.
That's because of where he had been, pitching the past two years for the Mariners, after the March 2015 trade from the Rays for Erasmo Ramirez, until the Cubs went after him in late July. He responded by earning Maddon's trust for meatier assignments, including the final out of the final game, and needing just two pitches to do so, getting a featured spot in every highlight video.
Amid the celebration, Montgomery thanked Cubs officials for bringing him in, allowing him to earn his first save Wednesday at any level, majors or minors.
"They came after me and probably believed in me more than I even believed in myself at the time, and it's paid off," Montgomery said. "To be a part of this is something not even than I'll never forget — that's too cliche. It's something I can't put into words right now."
• • •
Throughout the Series, Maddon had support of family, including his mom, Beanie, coming to Chicago and getting the police-car ride to Wrigley Field, and friends, such as Willy Forte, his Hazleton, Pa., childhood buddy who drove out from New Jersey, where he leads the famed B Street Springsteen tribute band.
But during the 17-minute rain delay, Maddon sought higher assistance. He ran back to the clubhouse to grab the Angels cap that's usually in his travel bag, the one his dad wore before dying during the 2002 season, before Anaheim won its World Series.
Before Game 6 Tuesday, Maddon pulled it out to hold. Going into Wednesday's 10th inning, he wanted it close, tucking it into the back of his pants, under his hoodie.
"It's incredible how this all plays out sometimes," he said. "You have to believe in order to see things, and I do believe. But it was great to have my dad there for two World Series victories."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.