Russell met with little reaction from the crowd at Scottsdale Stadium when he was introduced before batting in the second inning against the host San Francisco Giants. There were a couple of audible boos but nothing very aggressive. He singled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly during an eight-run inning by the Cubs.
"It felt great, to get the clay underneath my cleats," Russell said after coming out of the game. "Being in the lineup, especially with guys that we won the World Series with. It was a great day. I had a lot of fun."
Russell, 25, knows he might still get a less-than-favorable reaction from fans moving forward.
"I'm just trying to prepare myself for when that happens," Russell said. "The crowd today was a pretty nice crowd. A lot of supporting fans today. That made my heart explode as well."
Russell still has to serve the final 28 games of the suspension that was based on multiple allegations of abuse by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy. Russell continues to receive both league-mandated and private counseling, while the Cubs organization is undergoing enhanced domestic violence prevention training this spring.
Before the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he figured Russell would hear both boos and support.
"I anticipate some people that support him and you may hear a couple that do not," Maddon said. "That's just the way this world works right now."
Russell is likely to play his first spring home game later this week but won't suit up at Wrigley Field again until after his suspension is over in May.
"The tough stuff is out of the way but there is still some room for growth," Russell said. "That's what I'm looking forward to."