CHICAGO — Jack Suwinski did it. The Chicagoland native hit a home run at Wrigley Field. But it was his dad, Tim, who stole the show in the stands.
After Suwinski’s home run in the fifth inning — which sent the Pirates on their way to a 3-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night — his dad was emotional, shedding tears.
“He dreamed about this one when he was a kid,” Tim Suwinski said. “To play in your home field and hit a home run. What’s better than that?”
Tim watched from the seats as his son rounded the bases and his dream was fulfilled. As a parent, it was a proud moment — one that made his emotions take over. But he tried to downplay those sentimental feelings by calling his watery eyes “sweat.”
This moment, though, was different than anything else. This one was in front of family and friends who had supported Jack throughout his life.
“All of his friends are here, everybody from high school, grade school,” Tim said. “Everybody’s here. We grew up here. This is our field. You’re in your own place, and like they say, there is no place like home.”
Jack — who had family scattered through the stadium, including behind him while he played right field — felt that support as he rounded the bases with his dad taking off his hat and tipping it to his son.
“I’m just glad that I had so many friends and family here. [They’ve] been supporting me and encouraging me my whole life. I’m just happy that I could do that in front of them and kind of share that moment with them.”
That support — especially from his dad — has been with him throughout his life and even when he first got called up from Double-A Altoona on April 26. His dad frantically wanted to be there in Pittsburgh to see his son get his first Major League action. So he did what any father would do — get on the next flight over.
Although Tim wouldn’t witness Jack’s first career home run on May 9 against the Dodgers, this one was more special. And the rookie wasn’t surprised to see his dad shed some tears.
“I bet,” Jack said. “He’s been there for me every step of the way since I was young. I wouldn’t be here without him, that’s for sure. And I know that it was just as special for him as it was for me after all we’ve been through together.”
What’s more impressive about Jack’s home run in the fifth inning was his quality at-bat that led to the game-winning run. The rookie battled against lefty Drew Smyly for eight pitches — fouling off three. Then he uncorked a big swing on a 86.9 mph cutter that traveled 410 feet, according to Statcast.
“That was a great at-bat,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He grinded through that at-bat, left on left. Really happy for him.”
Jack has struggled against left-handed pitchers this season, as this was his first hit against a southpaw in 15 at-bats (.067). But with his support system there, he wasn’t going to let them down.
“Each pitch I felt a little more comfortable,” Jack said. “I was able to really get my balance. I know I fought off a couple of tough pitches there. He was changing speeds and changing heights. I was just able to put a good swing on that last one.”
Luckily, the tradition at Wrigley of throwing the opposing team’s home run ball back into play came in handy as Jack wanted the souvenir. The ball went through four security guards on the field before landing in the safe hands of Shelton, who then gave it to the rookie.
That home run ball, however, won’t be in his possession for too long because Jack has other plans with it.
“I think I’m going to give it to my family and let them have it,” Jack said. “I think that would be cool.”
The night was filled with a lot of emotion for the Suwinski family. Tim Suwinski shed tears on his son’s home run, and Jack Suwinski was the difference-maker in a much-needed win for the Pirates. And since the game was streamed on YouTube, he was named the YouTube Player of the Game.
For that major contribution, the rookie added two pieces of memorabilia on Wednesday night — the YouTube Player of the Game trophy and the home run ball at Wrigley. He felt the latter was a far bigger accomplishment.
“I think the homer for sure,” Jack said.