THE LOOP — The Cubs' Javy Baez might have just been the standout of their first-round playoff series with the San Francisco Giants, but he was honored for the entire year Friday by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to mark Hispanic Heritage Month.
Cheering what he called Baez's "magical play," White named Baez Sportsman of the Year, presenting him an honorary license plate.
"I just go out there and have fun and enjoy the game," Baez said. "I'm young and I like to have fun out there. I play like a little kid."
White originally scheduled the Hispanic Heritage Month event on Wednesday, but Baez was delayed returning with the Cubs from their late-night, fourth-game series clincher in San Francisco, in which Baez drove in the winning run.
Baez also homered to score the only run of the game in the Cubs' opening victory, and displayed his usual wizardly fielding throughout the series.
Baez pooh-poohed a question on the Billy Goat Curse. "To me, it doesn't mean anything," he said. "We just have to keep it out of our minds."
The Cubs play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series at 7 p.m. Saturday at Wrigley Field. If the Cubs prevail, they'd reach their first World Series in 71 years as they pursue their first world championship since 1908.
Baez was joined at the award ceremony his his mother, Nelida, brother, Gadiel, and girlfriend, Imarie Marquez. His family moved to the United States from Puerto Rico when he was 12. The Tribune ran a profile on his family background and the loss of his father and sister on Friday.
Baez recognized the occasion for the award, saying, "There's a lot of Latinos here, especially Puerto Ricans, and that's where I'm from. I get a lot of support from them."
National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
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