With refreshing attitude and hometown appeal, Michael Hermosillo is becoming an instant fan favorite for Cubs
Minutes after the postgame press conference aired on Marquee Sports Network, my phone buzzed with a text.
“I love Michael Hermosillo,” was the message from my mom, a diehard Cubs fan.
Following his first start, I imagine a lot of Cubs fans are feeling the exact same way about the Ottawa, Ill., native.
And his phone hasn’t stopped buzzing with similar messages and congratulations from friends and family after he homered and helped lead the Cubs to a 7-1 victory in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon.
“There was a good amount of notifications, which was awesome to see,” Hermosillo said. “Almost too many to answer at once.”
He grew up an avid Cubs fan about 90 minutes from Wrigley Field and a lot of his friends and family follow the team closely.
Hermosillo used to make the trek to “The Friendly Confines” each summer, including one of his first years in the minor leagues when he caught a Cubs-Cardinals game during his All-Star Break.
“I dreamed of being a Cub,” he said. “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.”
The dream became a reality for the 26-year-old when he signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in November. He was impressed when the team reached out immediately at the beginning of the offseason and he felt like he had a real opportunity to reach the big leagues.
“It was one of those things where it felt too right,” Hermosillo said. “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.”
Prior to 2021, Hermosillo had spent his entire professional career with the Angels organization. He was a 28th round draft pick in 2013 out of Ottawa High School and spent seven years in the minor league system.
He got some run with the big-league club in Los Angeles each of the last three seasons (2018-20), hitting .188 in 56 games. Prior to Wednesday, his only MLB homer came off Adrian Sampson (who actually started Wednesday’s game for the Cubs).
The Cubs called up Hermosillo Tuesday night and he entered the game off the bench, going 0-for-1 at the plate. Wednesday marked his first start in right field, batting 6th.
The Cubs were already up 1-0 by the time he stepped to the plate in the top of the 2nd inning and he extended the lead with a 2-run monster blast to left-center. He said he wished he could relive that moment a thousand times in his head.
“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.”
Hermosillo battled injuries earlier this season but has performed well when he’s been on the field. In 43 games with Triple-A Iowa prior to the call-up, he had 10 homers and 8 stolen bases to go along with a .306/.446/.592 slash line (1.038 OPS).
This season has been validation that Hermosillo made the right choice with his career path. He had a scholarship opportunity to play football with the University of Illinois but passed on it to join the Angels organization and try to make it in baseball.
Tim Beckman — the U of I football coach at the time — asked Hermosillo what the odds are that he even makes the big leagues, as Tommy Birch recounted in a great story for the Des Moines Register.
“That’s something that I’ve carried for a while but I think more than anything I’ve just carried the people who do believe in me,” Hermosillo said Wednesday. “There’s been so many people that have believed in me from the jump — whether that’s scouts, coaches, front office people, etc. So I think it’s more like proving them right than proving the other people wrong.
“You can get away with proving people wrong for a little bit but over the long term, you want to prove the people that believe in you right more than anything. It makes it easier to go about every day. It was definitely there but it was so long ago. And it was something brought up to me, I don’t really shame him for saying it. In all honesty, what are the odds?
“Just taking advantage of every opportunity and enjoying every minute of it.”
It’s exactly that kind of attitude that Cubs fans gravitate towards, especially amid a tough 2021 campaign.