Tommy La Stella wants to play for the Cubs -- and only the Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Cubs placed infielder Tommy La Stella on the inactive list Tuesday as he contemplates retirement if he can't play for the big league team.

In fact, La Stella, who was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on July 29, said the Cubs are the only team he wants to play for as his priorities have changed over the last year.

"I'm a baseball player by profession. My identity is not tied up in that," La Stella said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

"That's not who I am as a person. I don't need to make every life move centered around my profession, because that's not who I am. I kind of disassociated with that identity. It felt a lot better to me going out there playing because that's what I felt in me, not because I felt obligated to do it. It was a lot more enjoyable this year."

La Stella, 27, went home to New Jersey instead of reporting to Iowa after being optioned. A valuable role player, he was caught in a numbers game but was likely to return.

La Stella stressed there is no animosity with the Cubs and that his decision was just what he felt was best for himself.

"It's a reflection of where I am in my life and my career," La Stella said. "I told them, 'I know you have a business decision to make.' I completely understand where they're coming from. I don't fault them for making that choice one bit. They're doing what's in the best interest of the team. I understand that 100 percent."

La Stella even contemplated retirement last offseason but returned to the Cubs because he wanted to be with his teammates who have backed him.

"Everybody that walks through those doors, we're happy to have them," right fielder Jason Heyward said. "Especially someone like La Stella, who contributes so much even when he isn't playing. He's a guy that spoke up during the game, rooting us on and things like that. Stuff like that is missed. If you see someone like that, who brings that every day, when he comes into the clubhouse, you welcome him back with open arms every time."

La Stella spoke publicly about his situation for the first time Tuesday in order to take some pressure off his teammates, who have had to answer questions about him over the last several days. He also said he expressed his thoughts to the team in the spring.

"Going into this season, it was a shift in how I looked at it," he said. "I said if I'm going to do this I'm going to do it the right way. I'm going to be here because I want to be here. That was pretty much what I told them in spring training when we had that sit down meeting. I thought that went well."

La Stella also said he thinks his conversations he has had with the front office since being sent down have gone well. The team is trying to be understanding of his situation.

"The perspective we've chosen to take is, we're dealing with 25 different human beings in that clubhouse and everyone has different backgrounds, and we try to be understanding of that," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I know his teammates like him I know he can help his teammates win. Right now we're trying to give him time to clear his head."

As a left-handed bat off the bench, La Stella has given the Cubs plenty of value, compiling a .388 on-base percentage in 122 plate appearances. He repeatedly stressed that his decision to go home after being optioned wasn't a response to being sent down. He said he simply doesn't want to be anywhere else but Chicago.

"There wasn't much more that went into it than 'this is where I want to be,'" La Stella said. "It was as simple as that. It didn't feel right to me to go be somewhere else just to continue playing. That's not what my thoughts center around, being a ballplayer and making it happen anyway possible. We all have a right to dictate what we do to some extent.

"It had nothing to do with trying to leverage anything. It was just where I was in my life and my career. It was an obvious decision for me. There was no other consideration."

La Stella even said he would rather "step away" from the game then play for another team meaning a trade was out of the question. He doesn't want to go anywhere.

"That would have been it," he said. "I'm not going to go play for someone else. That's not something I have any interest in doing. I'm here for a reason. This is where I want to be...I'm just waiting to hear back from the team and keeping up with all the workouts and training and hitting."

So for the moment he'll stay in shape with his private trainers as he waits for what the Cubs will do next. He understands not all fans will understand his decision but is hopeful he's not looked at in a selfish manner.

"I'm not going to fault anyone for what they say or assume about the situation," La Stella said. "I'm ok to step away. It's something I've been preparing for, for a while. It's an accumulation of things. With injuries and stuff like that. It's a bunch of stuff that's personal to me."

Though the Cubs were hopeful La Stella would report to Triple-A they were at least aware of his mindset.

"To say we were completely shocked would be the wrong thing to say," Hoyer stated. "We were surprised and hopeful to get him back helping this team."

La Stella says if the Cubs bring him back he'll give his "100 percent" to help the team win and thinks he and team executive Theo Epstein at least understand each other.

"(Epstein) understood where I was coming from," La Stella said. "Or else I felt like he did. The conversations were great. I got off the phone feeling really good about it."

La Stella has stayed in contact with Dr. Ken Ravizza, who the Cubs employ as a sports psychologist, as well some of his teammates. Some didn't know he hadn't reported to Triple-A but all publicly support him. He would still love to return.

"I'm just trying to get people to hear where I'm coming from and whatever conclusions they draw are up to them," La Stella said. "If that day does come that they decide they want me back hopefully we can make that happen."