When the coronavirus pandemic stopped spring training last month, Ian Happ offered Nico Hoerner, Zack Short and Dakota Mekkes a place to stay if they wanted to remain in Arizona.
That's how “The Compound” was born.
Happ, Hoerner, Short and Mekkes — four players from the Cubs' organization — are living together while they await word on the baseball season. In addition to their workouts and tennis matches, they also are doing a podcast and posting videos of their day-to-day life at the house.
“I think it just helps to have camaraderie in this time,” Happ said. “A lot of guys are at home, away from the team and kind of missing that element. So for us, just to be around teammates, around guys that understand the uncertainty, understand what each other are going through, yeah, it's definitely nice.”
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Major League Baseball is looking at several different scenarios while trying to play as many games as possible this summer. One of the possibilities is holding every game at facilities in Arizona, or possibly including Florida in the mix.
When spring training was suspended March 12 because of the COVID-19 crisis, ballplayers in Arizona and Florida had to decide whether they wanted to head home or remain in their spring spot. Happ was staying in the poolhouse at the home of a family friend who wasn't going to return to Arizona anytime soon, so he invited Hoerner, Short and Mekkes to live with him.
“I didn't want to, God forbid, catch something on the way home or something like that, bring it home,” said Short, an infielder from Kingston, New York. “So I tried my best to stay away from going home and ever since then we've been here.”
The players borrowed some equipment from the Cubs' training facility in Mesa and set up a workout area in the garage and driveway that they call their prison yard. They also play tennis, basketball, golf and swim depending on the day.
The 24-year-old Short said they play doubles about four times a week. He teams with Hoerner to take on Happ and Mekkes.
“It's honestly really competitive because we're also, we're not very good at all,” Short said. “So, I mean, it kind of goes either way.”
While many players have wrestled with how to continue their preparations for an uncertain season, Happ and his housemates are hoping their cross training will help when it comes time to begin ramping up for baseball again.
“We talked about this a little bit as a team, but when guys come back from being away like this, it's a lot of soft tissue injuries,” Happ said, “and I think for us, just being able to stay as active as we are, the amount of stress that tennis puts on your body and all the different muscles you're working, I think that that for us has been a real advantage. I feel like my body is in as good if not a better place than it was when I came into spring training this year.”
Happ was the main engine behind the podcast — titled “The Compound,” of course. So far, guests have included Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester and quality control coach Mike Napoli from the Cubs, and actor Jeff Garlin, a big Cubs fan.
Hoerner, 22, who went to Stanford before he was selected by Chicago in the first round of the 2018 draft, has been leading the editing on the videos.
“I have respect for content creators who are constantly putting stuff out because it's not easy to stay on top of,” Happ said.
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