When I asked Jeff Samardzija what his normal day is like prior to a night game, he replied, “Well, I like to sleep late, get something to eat, maybe chill out a bit, then head to the ballpark.”
Man, how we’d all like that life.
And so it was yesterday when I picked up Jeff at the ballpark for a photo shoot at ProGear photo studio. We were already working on our January issue and Jeff will be on our cover. The January issue always is the edition we offer at the annual Cubs Convention, so needless to say, he will be mobbed by Vine Lines come January.
“That’s cool. No worries.”
I didn’t really know what to expect before meeting him. I had spoken to him when he first signed and went to Peoria to pitch for our A-ball team. But that was two years ago.
Turned out, he was very laid back and relaxed. Not a tinge of cockiness, and he was more than happy to do the photo shoot. We were working so far in advance because when the season ends, we won’t have access to players like we do now. And if postseason happens, it gets even tighter, as MLB pretty much takes over credentialing all media. So we have to get in all of our interviews and photo shoots done now because we won’t see most of these guys until the Convention. Doing things in advance becomes one of our priorities.
Unlike most other teams, we publish year round thanks to dutiful readers like yourselves. We are one of the only teams that can do that. However, we are not in a warm weather climate during the winter, which means most, if not all–with the exception of maybe Neal Cotts, a southern Illinois native–of our players fly the coop when winter arrives, heading to their homes in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Jeff still lives in Indiana, his home state. I mentioned I saw him early this year on a obscure late-night sitcom on NBC5 called “Sports Action Team”. It was filmed, he said, during the off-season and the producers of that show just contacted his agent about a cameo. It was filmed at a beautiful house overlooking a pristeen lake with a boat dock.
“So, is that your parents’ house?” I asked.
“Um, no, that was my house,” he replied.
“I guess that’s what first-round slot money will get you, huh?”
“Mmm, I guess.”
He wasn’t necessarily amused, but rather, almost bashful about it. And that’s when I figured out this 23-year-old “kid” was less about flash and money and more about just doing what he needed to do on the field. Priorities. Of course, that didn’t mean he was beyond volunteering his time for a photo shoot to help his team’s official magazine.
The shoot went well, as our staff photographer Steve Green and head designer Juan Castillo and I were on hand to direct Samardzija. He seemed like a natural. Considering his God-given athletic talents, that seems like an apt description for the All-American wide receiver from Notre Dame.
Dropping him off at the ballpark after the photo shoot concluded, I got a small reminder that though Samardzija wasn’t about money and flash, he wasn’t beyond some nice things, either.
“Thanks for the photo shoot,” he said. “You can drop me off at the Escalade over there.”