Jeff Samardzija told Theo Epstein he would dump his girlfriend to focus on improving
Epstein was the subject of an excellent feature written by Joe Posnanski. The article discussed Epstein’s efforts to overhaul the culture of the Chicago Cubs organization after becoming the team’s President of Baseball Operations following the 2011 season. When he first took the job, Epstein thought that only shortstop Starlin Castro would be part of a winning future in Chicago. He soon realized that Samardzija, a former Notre Dame wide receiver who signed with the Cubs in 2006, could also help the team win.
Epstein recalled something Samardzija told him and new manager Dale Sveum that delineated the pitcher’s dedication to the game.
“Welcome guys,” Epstein remembers Samardzija saying on his first day with Sveum, Posnanski writes. “I just want you to know one thing about me. I will do whatever it takes to help this team. And I think the best way to help this team is by being a starting pitcher. I’m eliminating everything in my life that gets in the way. I’m dumping my girlfriend. I’m moving to Arizona. I just want the chance to show you that I’m a starting pitcher.”
We don’t know if Samardzija actually dumped his girlfriend or if that was a figure of speech, but he wouldn’t be the first professional athlete to dump a girl in order to focus on training. Whatever Samardzija did definitely worked.
After pitching out of the bullpen from 2008-2011, Samardzija became a starter last season and went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA. He lowered his previously high walk rate, and he impressively struck out over a batter per inning. He will even be the team’s Opening Day starter, and the Cubs are so pleased with him they have even approached him about signing a contract extension.
Hopefully Samardzija hasn’t completely cut off contact with the opposite sex, but the good news is it sounds like he is following one of Epstein’s most important tenets for Cubs players.
CSN Chicago has the full feature on Epstein if you’re interested in reading it.
H/T Paul Sullivan