Did you know Jason Kipnis is from Northbrook?
How many times did you hear that during the 2016 World Series? At least a dozen, I’d guess. And that’s before it became a memeified refrain on Twitter during his time with the Cubs thereafter. But for however repetitive that fun fact became during the World Series, I do understand why it was offered so often and freely. At our core, we are a tribal species. So when we learn that someone shares almost anything significant in common with us, a little part of our brain lights up. And sharing a geographic home with someone happens to be a particularly potent spark.
You remember the feeling when the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose in 2008 and when the Cubs took Ed Howard in 2020. And, for me, most recently, something similar happened when I saw this picture of Michael Hermosillo decked out in Cubs gear as a child, right next to a picture of his Chicago Cubs debut:
— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) August 18, 2021
It shouldn’t mean so much to me that Hermosillo was a Cubs fan who grew up in Ottawa, but I’m only human … so it does! And to hear him talk about it, I understand why. You can just sense the passion and the authenticity: “I dreamed of being a Cub,” Hermosillo said via Tony Andracki. “I thought, if I could just get to Wrigley Field as an opponent. It didn’t even cross my mind that I could be a Cub one day. Obviously this is awesome to put on this jersey. Just surreal.”
And it doesn’t hurt that his background has (1) even more ties to Illinois, (2) the crucial choice of a career in baseball over football, and (3) a sprinkle of let’s prove the naysayers wrong: Hermosillo was committed to play football at the University of Illinois, but ditched that path to pursue baseball … a decision derided by Illinois’ football coach Tim Beckman.
Some good perspective from Cubs OF Michael Hermosillo.
He was asked if he stills carries a chip on his shoulder after former Illinois football coach Tim Beckman told the running back recruit that choosing baseball over football was likely a mistake as a 28th-round Draft pick⬇️ pic.twitter.com/LqJr6CJtwX
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 18, 2021
And it’s not all sentimentality either.
Hermosillo may be a 26-year-old former 28th round pick, but he also hasn’t gotten much of an extended chance in the big leagues and has been absolutely destroying baseballs at Triple-A Iowa all season: .306/.446/.592 (176 wRC+). Point being, there could be a bit more there than your typical 26-year-old Triple-A guy (something we’ve said, and believe for a few other Cubs on the roster, as well).
And yesterday, naturally, Hermosillo homered in his first start for the Chicago Cubs:
Farewell, baseball. pic.twitter.com/aZo6I3nZxh
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 18, 2021
“Hitting a home run in a Cubs uniform, being able to be a part of a win — it’s awesome,” Hermosillo said. “I’m kind of speechless just in terms of emotions because I haven’t really realized it completely yet.”
It’s unclear what exactly Hermosillo can or will become with the Cubs, but not unlike Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel, Greg Deichmann, or Sergio Alcantara, he should get plenty of opportunities to prove that he at least belongs in the big leagues. Plus, he’s not that old, is under team control for a long time, plays a useful defensive position, has crushed Triple-A pitching, and, again, has never really gotten a shot like the one he’s about to get in Chicago.
I’m legitimately interested to see what he can do and his background just makes rooting for him that much easier.