'Is this what we're doing?' Say hello to the Cubs' new celebration

Two years ago, as the Chicago Cubs were beginning to build their winning chemistry under new manager Joe Maddon, a backup infielder found a unique way to add to the emerging vibe.

Jonathan Herrera made it a tradition for a hitter to rub his helmet demonstratively after he reached base -- in honor of then-teammate Starlin Castro, who often rubbed his head when he laughed.

Cameras often caught the celebration on the base paths, and the celebration took off to the point that Herrera had a helmet with two fake hands pretending to rub it attached to the top of it.

With Castro and Herrera long gone, the Cubs have had room for something new to unite teammates and lighten the mood during the long grind of the season. The team is getting on base more since the All-Star break, which made it the perfect time to bust out a new ritual.

But what?

Up stepped Kyle Schwarber.

"It started in college," Schwarber explained in Atlanta earlier this week. "That was kind of our thing my sophomore year. Waving at your teammates that get on, and they're waving back to you because they know you're in that at-bat with you the whole time. They're grinding it out with you."

Yes, the Cubs (49-45) are literally waving at each other -- first from the dugout to the hitter who reached base, then from the hitter back to the dugout in acknowledgement. The twist is that the baserunner can freestyle with any creative gesture he chooses.

"After the break, we said we're going to give the wave or whatever else you wanted afterwards," infielder Tommy La Stella said. "So everyone is in the process of coming up with their own stuff."

Schwarber added: "I've been doing it since the beginning. Some guys have followed along. Now we're also kind of mixing our own thing."

Again, the cameras are catching the craze, and fans are starting to take notice. But there's a catch: The runner on first must acknowledge his teammates, or he will be harassed by them. Most are on board, but some -- such as the National League MVP -- are so locked into the game that they sometimes forget.

"They've been getting on me," Kris Bryant said with a smile. "I don't even know what we're doing. No one is telling me. There's no memo. All the other years, it was confirmed, like ‘This is what we're doing,' but this year, are we waving? Is everyone doing their own thing? It's like, OK, whatever. You wave at me. I'll wave back to you."

"We should have a team meeting on that. Are we waving or what? For singles, are we waving? What about doubles?" Kris Bryant

First-base coach Brandon Hyde has had to remind Bryant to wave while instructing him on what to do as a baserunner.

"I have to yell at him to do that," Hyde said. "They always do something different."

The superstar isn't alone in having to think about the practice. Albert Almora nearly forgot to acknowledge his teammates one time, but he made up for it quickly.

"I did everything," he said with a laugh. "I waved, wiggled my hands, stirred it up, whatever."

"I saw that," La Stella said. "I was laughing so hard."

It's those moments when a player adds a new wrinkle that have Bryant still trying to figure out the expectations.

"That's where I'm a little confused," Bryant said. "I see people doing other things, and I'm like, 'Is that what we're doing?'

"We should have a team meeting on that. Are we waving or what? For singles, are we waving? What about doubles? When I get on first, I'm just happy I got to first. Now I have to worry about waving and thinking about all this stuff. We'll nail it down soon. It's crunch time."

Addison Russell empathizes with Bryant.

"You get so caught up in the moment, and you're just ready to go, go, go," he said. "I could see why teammates give him some crap, but it's all in good fun."

It is all in good fun, and whether it's a wave or something more, everyone is getting on board.

"[Ben] Zobrist has his own thing," Russell said. "It's cool, the different things guys do when they get on base."

A gesture that started with Zobrist, in which he puts out his hand and extends it forward in a thrusting manner, has spread to teammates who want to add a message about Chicago's mission to the fun of celebrating.

Said the World Series MVP of the meaning of the twist he added to the motion: "We want to take the second half and pin it up against the wall and leave it there until we're done with it at the end of the year."

With a 6-0 road trip coming out of the break, that message seems to be sinking in.