Glen Ellyn native Stout gets call up from Cubs
The first phone call Glen Ellyn native Eric Stout made after finding out he'd been promoted to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday was to his father Mike.
A bit bummed Eric then dialed up his mom, Liz, who happened to be finishing up a day of serious yard work at their lake house in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
Hey mom. What are you doing this week?
Actually, we were planning on coming to Des Moines to watch you pitch.
Then came the words the Stouts have been waiting for their entire lives: "Well, how would you like to go to Wrigley instead?"
"It was a combination of screaming and crying, which has lasted for the last 24 hours," Liz said as Mike drove the family into Chicago on Monday as the Cubs prepared to face the San Diego Padres. "I couldn't even believe what he was saying. It was the call we've been dreaming about."
Eric Stout, a star pitcher at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, grew up a Cubs fan. He never once made it to a game, however, because of an extremely hectic travel schedule growing up.
So the only two times Eric made it to Wrigley were as a 10-year-old during a tour and for a predraft workout in 2014. And even then he didn't get to throw on the mound because it was raining.
"Pretty surreal," Eric said of what it felt like to be on the field. "It looks the same distance between home plate and the mound in Iowa and everywhere else I've been. I told my Aunt Cheryl (also a reporter for WBEZ 91.5-FM) there's a couple more seats in the stands, though."
Eric's journey to the Cubs was a difficult one that took him to nearly 20 different teams over the last decade. Just since 2019 Eric has pitched for Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Chattanooga, Kansas City and the Chicago Dogs of the American Association, Triple-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Iowa. He's also gone to the Puerto Rican Winter League for three straight years.
There were definitely tough times along the way -- so tough that Eric was ready to throw in the towel.
But some heart-to-heart talks with his dad proved pivotal.
"I had a lot of nights where I thought I was done playing and he pushed me to keep going," Eric said. "Stuff like that makes me a little bit emotional."
Said Mike, who is an avid 16-inch softball player and in a 60-and-over league in Elk Grove: "I guess I always just tried to find some good out of each (outing) -- tried to keep him going. I think a lot of this had to do with playing in Puerto Rico. ... He got some confidence there. He did well.
"I just thought he was on the edge of being able to get there."
Eric was a 13th-round draft pick of the Royals in 2014, but he appeared in just three games for them in 2018. He signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs on March 17 and has gone 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 29⅔ innings for Iowa.
Eric's development of a sweeping slider opened eyes across the organization.
"The assistant pitching coach (Daniel Moskos) mentioned it at dinner (during the spring)," Eric said. "The next day I threw it and was like, 'Whoa. That actually moves a little bit.'"
Mike and Liz drove to Wrigley with Eric's grandmother, Oma, and his godmother. Oma is 91 and lives in an assisted living facility in Glen Ellyn. She came to many of Eric's games growing up and he couldn't wait to see her in the stands.
"I didn't know she was coming until later, when my mom told me," said Eric, who was 10-3 with a 1.28 ERA as a senior at St. Francis in 2011. "She hasn't seen me play since maybe college (at Butler). ... I'm probably most excited to see her, honestly. I know she's gonna be a wreck."
Things really came full circle for Liz, whose brothers used to come to Wrigley from their home on N. Clifton Ave. to help clean the stadium to earn a free ticket.
"We've been Cubs fans forever," she said. "It's just crazy how this has happened in our own hometown."