Michael Hermosillo grew up going to Cubs games, but he was told he’d probably never make it there as a player. The Ottowa, IL native was weighing a football scholarship to the University of Illinois against signing with the Angels as a 28th-round pick in the 2013 draft. Illini coach Tim Beckman all but made Hermosillo’s choice for him and gave the teenager the motivation he needed to realize his dreams.
“He was just like, ‘You’re a 28th round pick. What are even the odds that you make it to the big leagues being that?’” Hermosillo recounted to Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. “And I was like, ‘You’re probably right in terms of my odds but I do believe in my ability.’”
For what it’s worth, Beckman had a 12-25 record at Illinois that included going 4-20 in Big Ten play before he was fired a week before the 2015 season opener following allegations of player abuse. Hermosillo, on the other hand, made his MLB debut in 2018 and just hit a home run for the Cubs in his first start for them since being called up.
“I dreamed of being a Cub,” Hermosillo said after the game. “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.”
— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) August 18, 2021
The older image above is from August 3, 2006, which the Marquee broadcast sleuths determined because Hermosillo said he remembered Matt Murton going 4-for-4 on the afternoon. The smile the youngster is wearing over his Sammy Sosa shirt has remained the same because the 26-year-old man wearing it still feels like a kid. This is all he’s wanted for pretty much his whole life and it’s why he signed a minors deal this offseason.
“It was one of those things where it felt too right,” Hermosillo explained. “It just didn’t seem like a coincidence — having the Cubs reach out to me right away, being a Cubs fan growing up. I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity.”
Now it’s a matter of making the most of that opportunity as the Cubs transition to a new core group they hope will get them back into contention. Veterans Patrick Wisdom and Rafael Ortega appear to be doing that so far, but both of them are at least three-plus years older than Hermosillo and they lack that extra punch of je ne sais quoi.
Rather than an indictment of either Wisdom or Ortega, that’s more a statement about what Hermosillo brings to the table. He’s just one of those players you like immediately just from watching the way he carries himself on the field. His athleticism and effort are obvious in the field and at the plate and he just radiates charisma, which is something the Cubs are sorely lacking after all their deadline deals.
And when you get right down to it, everyone loves a story about a local kid who gets to play for the team he grew up adoring.
“Hitting a home run in a Cubs uniform, being able to be a part of a win — it’s awesome,” Hermosillo said after the game. “I’m kind of speechless just in terms of emotions because I haven’t really realized it completely yet.”
As a fun aside, that was just his second MLB home run. The first came against his new teammate, Cubs starter Adrian Sampson, back in 2018.
The only thing better would have been if the dinger had mattered a little bit more as the Cubs boatraced a Cincinnati squad that looked like anything but Wild Card contenders during the three-game set. If the Cubs aren’t careful, they might mess around and field a competitive team down the stretch. Calling up some of Hermosillo’s teammates from Iowa, particularly those in the bullpen, would make that even more of a reality.
Whether this feel-good story has several more chapters or ends up as just a footnote is something we’re going to have to wait to find out. In the meantime, having Hermosillo in Chicago is one of a few things that can help to make an otherwise futile season worthwhile over the next few weeks.