Hermosillo hits decisive HR in 1st Cubs start

Childhood fan enjoys full-circle moment for franchise: 'I dreamed of being a Cub'

August 18th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- There is a photo of when he was a kid, posing while attending a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. His hat sat askew atop his head and Sammy Sosa's likeness was printed on the front of his bright blue shirt.

In a 7-1 win over the Reds on Wednesday, Hermosillo had his name across the back of his Cubs jersey and launched a homer in his first start with the franchise. He did not hop out of the box like Slammin' Sammy, opting instead for an emphatic bat drop as he admired the shot to left field.

“That was cool. I can't lie,” Hermosillo said of the homer. “That's one of those things where I wish you could replay that 1,000 times in your head and feel that again. It was awesome.”

The Cubs have been starved for some feel-good moments of late, and the arrival of Hermosillo has provided that kind of storyline. His blast was one of three on the day for Chicago -- along with Ian Happ and Sergio Alcántara -- to help the team pick up its first series win since July 23-25 against the D-backs.

The homer also helped Hermosillo (Ottawa, Ill.) realize a lifelong dream.

Hermosillo attended games at Wrigley Field throughout his childhood and into his teen years, and he even made trips to the Friendly Confines as a Minor Leaguer in the Angels’ system. He envisioned himself out on the diamond but figured that chance would eventually arrive with him wearing a different uniform.

“It didn't even cross my mind that I could be a Cub one day,” Hermosillo said. “So, obviously, this is awesome just to put on this jersey. It's just surreal.”

Hermosillo's two-run shot off Reds starter Tyler Mahle -- a blast projected at 441 feet by Statcast -- reached the second deck at Great American Ball Park. It was the outfielder's first homer in the Majors since Sept. 24, 2018, when he was with the Angels.

That blast three years ago came off Texas right-hander , who -- as the universe saw fit -- was on the mound for the Cubs in Wednesday's win. Hermosillo and Sampson are the 60th and 61st players used, respectively, by Chicago this season.

Even after spending much of the season together with Triple-A Iowa, Sampson had no idea Hermosillo’s lone big league homer prior to Wednesday was off him.

“I did not know that until just now,” said the pitcher. “He never mentioned it to me.”

When that fact was relayed to Hermosillo, he broke into a wide smile and started laughing.

“I never mentioned it to him -- not once,” said Hermosillo, still chuckling. “I may have mentioned it to a couple teammates in Triple-A that I was close with, but I feel like that wasn't something I was going to bring up. If he wanted to bring it up, sure. But I was going to leave that one alone.”

Sampson gave the Cubs four solid innings in a spot start, trying to show that he can help fill a hole in the rotation for a team evaluating its in-house options. Similarly, Hermosillo is being given a chance to prove that he might fit into the outfield puzzle not only this year, but perhaps in 2022 as well.

Cubs manager David Ross gave Hermosillo the start in right field against the right-handed Mahle, allowing veteran Jason Heyward to take a day off. Ross said another way to utilize Hermosillo in the days and weeks ahead could be as part of a platoon with lefty-swinging center fielder Rafael Ortega, who is also auditioning for next season.

“He had a nice spring for us,” Ross said of Hermosillo. “There were some moments early on where his name was talked about, and he had an injury pop up down there. But he’s been great. I’m happy he’s here and going to get an opportunity to contribute.”

The 26-year-old Hermosillo was a 28th-round pick by the Angels in the 2013 MLB Draft, prompting him to opt out of playing football for the University of Illinois. A three-star recruit as a running back, Hermosillo said his dream as a kid was to reach the Major Leagues, and not to, say, play for the Bears at Soldier Field.

“I dreamed of being a Cub, honestly,” said Hermosillo, who played in 56 games for Los Angeles across the 2018-20 seasons before being cut loose last winter.

So when the Cubs came calling with a Minor League contract last offseason, it felt too good to be true. Hermosillo said he “wasn't really going to pass up that opportunity.” In 43 games at Iowa, all he did was post a .306/.446/.592 slash line with 10 home runs.

Now, Hermosillo has his first homer for Chicago in the books.

“It's definitely crazy. I'm just trying to soak it all in, enjoy it,” he said. “I would like to show that I can be here every day. So, I'm just trying to focus on that more than anything. But obviously, sitting back right now, it's awesome just to think [about] -- hitting a home run in a Cubs uniform, being able to be part of a win.

“Yeah, it's awesome. It's kind of speechless, just in terms of my emotions.”