Getty Images Addison Russell

Springdale, Arkansas, is about equidistant from Pace, Florida -- Addison Russell's birth town -- and Chicago -- Russell's current hometown. It's also where Russell learned about the trade that would change his life forever while playing for the Midland RockHounds, the Oakland Athletics' Double-A affiliate.

"It was my day to sit out, and around the eighth inning, I went into the clubhouse," Russell remembers his movements during the July 4, 2014, game against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. "Normally, I don't check my phone, but I checked my phone and I saw Albert Almora [Jr.] texted me, 'Hey, welcome to the team,' and Joey Gallo called me and was like, 'Hey bro, did you just get traded?' I was like, 'I don't know. Albert just texted me.'"

Russell was the No. 11 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the A's. He played at Pace High School that spring and was on to Rookie League shortly after. On the day of the 2014 trade, Russell was 20 years old (as were Almora and Gallo, two of his U18 teammates at the 2011 Pan American Games). Russell was the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Athletics' organization in 2013, a year he peaked at Triple-A.

Within an instant, he became an outsider to the team.

"I had to go back into the dugout, and I'm getting some weird looks from coaches and there I'm thinking to myself, 'I just got traded,'" Russell says. "At the time, I was surprised. I really didn't know what to think, but Aaron Nieckula, the manager for Midland, he pulled me into his office after the game, and he said, 'Hey, I want you to know you just got traded. Don't look at it as if the A's didn't want you. Look at it as if the Cubs wanted you and they're making this strong push for young athletes to be at the big league level.' I was all for it. I looked at it as an opportunity to get better, to improve my career and a few years later, here we are, we win the World Series and we're looking to repeat."

The dominos fell for Russell, who went from Billy Beane to Theo Epstein (Billy McKinney and Dan Straily also went to the Cubs with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel going to the A's). He spent the rest of 2014 at the Cubs' Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies, playing with Almora. He started 2015 at Triple-AAA Iowa. Kris Bryant was called up on April 17. Russell followed four days later. The two have started in the Cubs' infield nearly every game since then. Russell first came up as a second baseman before swapping with Starlin Castro and moving to shortstop.

"[The Cubs] wanted an infielder that could produce at the plate a little bit and I was that guy," Russell says. "I had no problem playing second base, but after the second half, whenever we made the switch, him playing second base and me playing shortstop, we kind of went on this tear, and from there, I really haven't seen the other side of the bag."

Javier Baez, Addison Russell

Castro was traded to the Yankees before the 2016 season. Ben Zobrist was signed to play second base, but the uber-utility player moved to the outfield to make room for another emerging young star infielder: Javy Baez. The 2016 NLCS MVP has proved to be a match with Russell up the middle, whether he watches his tags or not.

"He's a great guy too," Russell says. "He plays with a lot of intensity, a lot of passion, a lot of flair. It's very exciting to watch him play, especially whenever you're on the same field with him, whenever you're connecting that double play. It makes everything sweeter."

Baez has built a faction of critics due to his freewheeling play. In the World Baseball Classic, he made a no-look tag on a double play that went viral, with some applauding him and some bashing him.

Russell has news for the haters.

"This season, it seems like he's a little more focused," Russell says. "He's not as flairy as he was in the WBC, but he does play with flair, which is awesome to see. He doesn't scare me. If he wants to go out there and have some fun, let's go out there and have some fun. Joe [Maddon] really presses having fun over anything else. If you're not having fun, you're probably not doing it for the right reasons, and two, you're probably not producing as well as you want to be, so go up there and have some fun. Smile and keep the atmosphere light."

It worked last year. The Cubs won 103 games and broke a 108-year curse. That'll be a tall task to live up to. But at least the Cubs have fun attempting to repeat.

And for Russell, one of the game's youngest stars on one of its youngest teams, getting traded is not such a worry.

Russell spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of sports nutrition brand MET-Rx, one of his sponsors. Russell partnered with MET-Rx starting last season to help take his training to the next level.


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