MINNEAPOLIS — Twins rookie Ryne Harper hasn’t met the former Cubs great for whom he’s named. Maybe someday? It sure would be a treat.
“Oh, man, that would be really cool,” Harper said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. More so than the name thing, he was just such an awesome baseball player.”
Ryne Sandberg was in the big leagues by 21, won an MVP with the Cubs at 24 and went on to be a 10-time All-Star and a nine-time Gold Glove winner.
The other Ryne? Well, let’s just say his baseball career hasn’t been on quite as fast a track.
“I guess I took the long way,” he said.
Harper, a right-handed pitcher who played college ball at Austin Peay in his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, was drafted in the 37th round in 2011 by the team he’d grown up rooting for, the Braves. From there began an odyssey that included so many stops — in three different organizations — that he pitched in eight different minor leagues before finally debuting in the majors with a scoreless inning of relief on March 31, 2019.
It was four days after his 30th birthday.
Hollywood probably won’t make a movie about Harper’s experience, but that kind of perseverance is rare in this world. How many teammates — how many friends — did he watch pass him by over his near-decade of beating the bushes?
“More than I could count,” he said.
But he never gave up on his dream. And now he has most of a full major-league season under his belt, with 59 appearances — three of them against the White Sox, who’ve yet to ding him for a run — and a respectable 3.44 ERA.
With a playoff-bound team, too? What a thrill.
“It’s been so awesome that getting here was worth every second,” he said. “But you know what? Even if I never did, I was still playing baseball. It was still fun. It was still an honor to play the game professionally. It was a dream job. And I know it’s not forever up here, but I don’t worry about it. Whenever it’s done, it’s done.”
In 1989, Harper came into this world just as Sandberg and the Cubs were about to embark on their own championship season. His parents, Ralph and Karen, loved the game and cheered for the Braves — but Ralph’s favorite player of all manned second base at Wrigley Field.
So a boy was born and given the name Ryne. Against all odds, that boy would make it all the way to the Show. What’s left? A ring would be amazing. Another few seasons in the majors would be the ultimate.
And a moment — just a handshake and a few words — with the man for whom he’s named? That would be mighty fine, too.
So, Lucas Giolito, now that you’ve been shut down for the season with a mild lat strain, there’s no excuse not to give this one an honest answer:
Who’s going to win the World Series?
“Ooh. Wow. OK,” he said Tuesday before a Sox-Twins game he was scheduled to start until he felt some pain during a throwing session Sunday in Seattle. “Who’s going to win the World Series?”
A lengthy pause followed, during which the pitcher at one point tried to buy time by claiming to be “running calculations in my head.”
“I’d love to see the Braves win just because one of my best friends [Max Fried] is on that team. But just to throw it out there, I think Astros. Their starting pitching depth is ridiculous.”
So there you have it.
• Too many people have asked me which potential NL playoff teams Cubs fans should be rooting for and against in the final couple of weeks. Take this Cardinals-Nationals series that’s going on now, for example. Or the Cardinals-Brewers one that came before it.
My goodness, it’s so simple: It’s all about the Cubs and the Cards. It’s all about the division race. Win that sucker or we’ll see you next year, is my philosophy.
Look, I never said I knew what the heck I was talking about. Besides, my abacus is in the shop.
• Sox shortstop Tim Anderson’s AL batting lead vs. teammate Jose Abreu’s AL RBI lead.
• Is it amateur hour at the Sky?
No doubt, the way their season ended with a 93-92 playoff loss at the Las Vegas Aces was crushing. The Sky had the game in their clutches. Horrible luck followed a turnover in the closing seconds, with an Aces player hurrying a crazy-long three-point shot — and somehow making it — after appearing to step out of bounds.
Again, crushing. Such is life in sports.
But the Sky player who made that truly awful turnover, Courtney Vandersloot, ditched the arena in Vegas without meeting with media. Vandersloot is the veteran leader of the Sky. She was at the center of the most important play of the entire WNBA season — and then either shirked her responsibility or, worse, was shielded by the organization?
Gotta grow up.
The Sky want coverage. The Sun-Times, for one, gave it to them wire-to-wire all season. This was an incredibly weak way to end things.