MESA, Ariz. -- It’s only a coincidence that good friends Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay ended up on the same team. After years of working out with each other, along with fellow Miami natives such as Manny Machado and Yonder Alonso, the pair of center fielders will share time on the Chicago Cubs, replacing the popular Dexter Fowler. They’ve promised to lean on each other, which will be particularly helpful for Almora, who is a decade younger and just starting his major league career.
Recently the two sat down at their lockers in Cubs camp to discuss all things baseball, including the World Baseball Classic, in which they watched friends closely.
Jay: I met Albert in 2013.
Almora: After I was drafted.
Jay: I liked him right away. I mean, I knew of him before, and I like to follow guys coming from Miami, and Manny Machado told me about him. After he turned pro, we started working out together -- that whole group from Miami.
Almora: I’ve learned that gamer mentality from him -- how to be a pro, all that. Even in the offseason. The competitive nature of that whole group. Keep working. Take care of your body.
Jay: It’s been fun [playing] next to him out there. We’re on the same page, and we talk all the time. Just getting ready for the season. Been watching the WBC too.
Almora: Oh, yeah, that catch at the wall by [Adam] Jones was great.
Jay: And that was against Manny. We both have that one in our pockets, right? [laughs]
Almora: Definitely. He ran a long way for that in that ballpark. Oriole catching an Oriole.
Jay: A [home run] or a catch in center is just as important. You can impact every game in center. You saw him [Jones] do that. It fired everyone up. Laying out or going all-out can do that to a team. That’s why we love it. We love playing defense.
Almora: Yeah, for example, when Jones hit that home run a day or two earlier, you saw him just round the bases. When he caught that ball, you saw a lot more emotion. That’s what you get with great defense. It can fire everyone up.
Jay: I’m just trying to fit in here. I’ll help him [Almora] or anyone as much as I can.
Almora: It’s great having him here. The whole team is so happy to have him here.
Jay: I loved watching these guys last year. I was live-tweeting that Game 7 [of the 2016 World Series]. I tweeted "heads-up play" or something like that when Albert tagged up and went to second on that fly ball.
That's how you run the bases @albertalmora— Jon Jay 2Js (@jonjayU) November 3, 2016
Almora: I got a lot of congratulations. I hear it from fans, even. He [Jay] texted me afterwards.
Jay: It’s tough to come in there not playing a lot. Everything is going fast, and to slow it down and make that play was huge. That’s a big year. He made his debut and all the stuff that comes with that. Then to go to a World Series and win a World Series in his first year, that’s unbelievable.
Almora: Last year was a great year as a husband, father and a baseball player. I learned a lot. The confidence would have been there no matter what, but getting that experience was great. Guys like Jon helped.
Jay: The biggest thing I said to him is, "Everyone has their own path." You can’t get caught up in it. It’s about getting here and staying here -- not to be a flash. He’s here now.
Almora (smiling): I don’t know the feeling of not winning one. My first year, and we win.
Jay: That series [Cubs vs. Cardinals in September 2015] you could see the atmosphere. It was unreal. Just playing against these guys for a while, you can see the excitement here.
Almora: We’re going to have fun again this year. That’s what it’s all about.