Public League to big league: Taft’s Jack Suwinski settles in with Pirates
The kid who grew up in Norwood Park, starting out playing T-ball as a 6-year-old, made his MLB debut with the Pirates on April 26 as a 23-year-old outfielder.
When the pandemic shut down minor league baseball and the rest of the sports world, Jack Suwinski came back to the Northwest Side to keep grinding.
“He was here working on the fields at Taft,” longtime Eagles coach Rich Pildes said. “We were here watching him do drills with former Taft players, hitting on our fields.”
Two years later, Suwinski is seeing all that work pay off. The kid who grew up in Norwood Park, starting out playing T-ball as a 6-year-old, made his MLB debut with the Pirates on April 26 as a 23-year-old outfielder.
Suwinski went 1 for 5 with a run scored in that game against the Brewers, and is getting settled into the big-league routine. But he has taken time to reflect on the journey that took him from the Chicago Park District fields of his youth to the pinnacle of the game.
“Those memories, they flash back to your head,” Suwinski said last week. “All the hard work on cold nights in the winter. Cold mornings you’re getting up early, it’s still dark, still snowing. It makes it all worth it.”
Suwinski’s dad, Tim, was a competitive swimmer who guided all of his kids into that sport as soon as they could get in the water. Jack also played soccer and flag football growing up. But his future path was determined pretty early.
“I want to say his second or third year of playing park district ball at Norwood Park, one of the dads said, ‘Jack is really good,’” Tim Suwinski recalled.
By the time he was 8, Suwinski was done with swimming. His focus had shifted to baseball and soon he was on a travel team.
Pildes, who is in his 37th season at Taft, knew Suwinski was special from the get-go. “We got to know him in the fall of his freshman year,” Pildes said. “We deduced he would start.”
To put that in perspective, Pildes said the number of freshmen who’ve started for him on the varsity could be counted “on one hand.”
Then and now, the Eagles have one of the city’s top programs. Suwinski loved his time playing at Taft and in the Public League.
“Some of the best times, some of the best memories,” he said. “We played in Wrigley [Field] in the [Public League] final four, one of the coolest games I ever played in. Once you step on that field, you think to yourself, ‘I’m going to play here one day.’”
For most kids, that’s just wishful thinking. But Suwinski’s big league dream actually came true.
He was drafted by the Padres in the 15th round in 2016 as a high school senior and started his pro baseball journey.
After playing four seasons in rookie and Single-A before the pandemic, Suwinski started 2021 in Double-A. He was enjoying his best pro season when the Padres traded him and two other minor leaguers to the Pirates for veteran second baseman Adam Frazier.
Suwinski wound up slashing .262/.383/.465 in 111 games at Double-A last season and was off to a .353/.421/.686 start in Double-A this spring when he got the news he was going to the big leagues.
Now, he’s living that dream that started back in Norwood Park.
“The team, the staff, the coaches and players have been real welcoming,” Suwinski said of the Pirates. “I do feel better. I am getting comfortable.”