Pitching for Cubs, Farrell able to reconnect with Northwestern

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cubs relief pitcher Luke Farrell, being congratulated by catcher Willson Contreras after closing a victory, appreciates being so near to where he spent his college days as a Wildcat.

    Cubs relief pitcher Luke Farrell, being congratulated by catcher Willson Contreras after closing a victory, appreciates being so near to where he spent his college days as a Wildcat. Associated Press file photo/April 24, 2018

 
By Sean Hammond
shammond@shawmedia.com
Updated 6/21/2018 11:08 PM

When former Northwestern pitcher Luke Farrell embarked on his professional baseball career, he spent his offseasons working out on campus in Evanston. Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald was almost always there, working out at the same time as Farrell.

So Farrell and Fitzgerald were no strangers when Farrell caught the football coach's ceremonial first pitch Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

 

"You really start to feel how close the school is, not only to the Cubs, but to the city in general," Farrell said. "Things like that really remind you of a lot of good days at Northwestern, a lot of good times."

Farrell, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound right-handed pitcher for the Cubs, is one of seven former Wildcats baseball players who have played for the Cubs. Farrell is the first since Eric Jokisch, a lefty hurler, pitched in four games in 2014.

The Wildcat connection dates to 1892, when Northwestern baseball and football player Frank Griffith pitched four innings for the Chicago Colts -- as they were known then -- back when the club played at South Side Park, near the present-day site of Guaranteed Rate Field.

The list of Wildcats includes Joe Girardi, who wore Cubbie blue for seven seasons and later managed the Yankees to the World Series title in 2009, as well as Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Paddy Driscoll, an All-American football player at Northwestern who played in 13 games for the Cubs in 1917.

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"It's really cool, just to come down a few miles south of campus," Farrell said. "It seems like every couple days there's some sort of tie. The Northwestern softball team came through the clubhouse when we were on the road. Jim Phillips, our AD, came out and threw the first pitch a couple weeks ago and I caught that. You always feel close to that."

Farrell, the son of former Red Sox manager John Farrell, has made 12 relief appearances for the Cubs. In 17⅓ innings, Luke Farrell has a 3.63 ERA out of the bullpen with 26 strikeouts and six walks.

Luke Farrell played at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, graduating in 2009. His father worked for the Cleveland Indians from 2001 through 2006, before becoming the Red Sox pitching coach in 2007. John Farrell managed the Red Sox from 2013 to 2017.

Luke Farrell said his decision to attend Northwestern came about quickly. Northwestern coaches saw him pitch at a game at Notre Dame, they made him an offer the next day, and one more day later Farrell accepted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I had been talking to a few other [schools], but somebody told me about the academic strength, where it was, Big Ten Conference and all these things that [Northwestern] had going for it," Farrell said.

He played four seasons for the Wildcats from 2010 to 2013. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Kansas City Royals in 2013 and made his big-league debut with the Royals in 2017.

John Farrell took a one-game leave from the Red Sox to watch his son's debut.

"I didn't know he was going to do that," Luke Farrell said. "I found out really late the night before I was supposed to pitch. It was a day game and I find out like midnight or 1 o'clock that he was going to come into town. So for him to take off and leave his team for a day to come watch me pitch is pretty special."

The Dodgers purchased Luke Farrell's contract briefly (he never pitched for the big league club) before the Reds selected him off waivers. He pitched in nine games for the Reds in August and September. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in October.

It was a fitting landing spot for Luke Farrell, whose two brothers work for the Cubs. The move also brought the 27-year-old back near a campus he cherishes.

"One of the best parts of coming to this team and playing in this city is all the familiar faces I have from school," Luke Farrell said. "I went back a few times last year and spoke at the banquet for the baseball team, things like that. It's a place that has become so important to me and it really is kind of a second home."

• Twitter: @sean_hammond

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