Ex-Pelicans fill major roles in Cubs’ World Series title

With Game 7 of the World Series hanging in the balance and the Chicago Cubs reeling after blowing a late three-run lead, the Lovable Losers appeared poised to extend their 108-year streak of disappointment. But they found inspiration from a pair of unlikely sources – a 17-minute rain delay courtesy of Mother Nature, and a motivational speech from former Myrtle Beach Pelican Jason Heyward.

Heyward, who played for the Pelicans in 2008-09 as a top prospect for the Atlanta Braves before signing an eight-year deal with the Cubs this year, called a quick team meeting the visiting weight room of Progressive Field and sparked his team to rally for an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings that ended the longest championship-less streak in major sports history.

Heyward was one of three former Pelicans to play a role in bringing a world championship to the North side of Chicago via Myrtle Beach. Ironically, all played here before the Pelicans became a Cubs affiliate two years ago. Pitchers Justin Grimm and Kyle Hendricks, who started Game 7, pitched at Pelicans Ballpark in 2001 and 2012, respectively, as member of the Texas Rangers farm system.

A trio of ex-Pelicans also played a unique role in the Cubs’ ascent when they were traded to the New York Yankees in a deal for closer Aroldis Chapman, who pitched late in Chicago wins in Games 6 and 7. Prospects Billy McKinney, who played in Myrtle Beach in 2015, and 2016 Pelicans Gleyber Torres and Rashad Crawford were sent to the Yankees in exchange for the 100-mph fireballer.

Other local connections to the Cubs include former Coastal Carolina standout Tommy LaStella and Newberry native Carl Edwards Jr., who pitched two of the final three outs for the Cubs. Outfielder Jorge Soler did a brief rehab assignment in Myrtle Beach last season. The Pelicans have won back to back Carolina League championships since becoming a Cubs affiliate.

Photo courtesy of MLB

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