Jerrick Suiter woke up recently with breakfast on his mind, ready to begin his morning routine like any other day.
Then, the Valparaiso native noticed he had over 40 text messages waiting for him.
The Cubs selected Suiter in the minor league portion of MLB's Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12. Now, the former Vikings and TCU Horned Frog gets a chance to impress his childhood team.
“That kind of tops it all off,” Suiter said. “One, there's a team that obviously sees something in me and they want to see me play. Two, it's the Cubs. I used to sit in my back yard and pretend I was Sammy Sosa or Kerry Wood when I'm playing whiffle ball with my friends way back in the day.”
It was a totally unexpected development in Suiter's career. A 26-year-old first baseman who's a candidate to convert to a pitcher, Suiter said he didn't even realize when the draft was. He's playing winter ball in Australia for the Canberra Cavalry and expected to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in the spring.
Suiter hit .235 last season for the Double-A Altoona Curve and likely will head to either Double-A Tennessee or Triple-A Iowa at the end of spring training. He's making the most of his time in Australia, however, hitting .324 after former teammates convinced him to spend the winter months Down Under.
“I'm really, really liking not having a winter,” Suiter said. “Things kind of clicked for me lately. I'm still not showing a ton of power, but I'm seeing the ball well, putting it in play and things have fallen.”
Suiter said he remembers Sammy Sosa's 1998 battle with Mark McGwire for the National League home run title like it was yesterday and used to imitate Sosa's trademark hop on homers. While Suiter said Cubs player development guru Matt Dorey sees him as a pitcher long-term, his versatility gives him an edge thanks to new roster rules.
While Major League rosters previously expanded from 25 players to 40 in September, they'll now increase to a baseline of 26 prior but only move to 28 in September. Teams will need to maximize the fewer spots they have available, and that means two-way ability could become more valuable.
Suiter anticipates reporting to spring training in Mesa, Arizona, on Jan. 24. The Times 2011 Athlete of the Year has only made two appearances on the mound as a pro and said he's not sure what velocity he tops out at — he hit 93 miles per hour in high school. But he's hopeful that shifting that direction can extend his career.
“It's huge,” Suiter said. “It gives me a chance to stay in the game.”
Robbie Weinstein's memorable stories from 2019
Sports reporter Robbie Weinstein highlights five of his most memorable pieces of 2019.
Valparaiso defeated Merrillville 29-29 on Oct. 4 in the game of the year in Region football.
Hebron resident Jeff Mescal is one of few runners to have completed marathons in less than three hours in all 50 states.
Bitter rivals Wheeler and Boone Grove rallied around softball players from each team whose families were affected by cancer.
Just 10 of 42 Region IHSAA schools finished the 2018-19 season with female head coaches.