A feel-good comeback story, reminiscent of The Natural. The 37-year-old Luke Hagerty signs with the Chicago Cubs– the team that drafted him 17 years ago.
The Chicago Cubs drafted the 6’7″ left-handed pitcher with the 32nd overall pick in the first round of the 2002 June Amateur Draft. It was the Indiana native’s dream was always to play in the Major Leagues.
After a meteoric rise through the minors, Luke Hagerty was destined to pitch in the Major Leagues as team officials assured the promising pitcher that he would be pitching in the Bigs by next September.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
Unfortunately for Hagerty, that never happened as he suffered an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery.
After rehabilitation, Hagerty came back, and the flamethrower still clocked 97-98 mph consistently, but Hagerty would start to experience something that is referred to across all sports as the “yips.”
The “yips” is the ominous name given as an explanation of a sudden loss of motor skills manifesting in performance anxiety.
After not being able to find the strike zone and allowing 30 walks over a span of just 6. 2/3 innings pitched, it became apparent that Hagerty was a shell of his once-promising self.
The Cubs released Hagerty by 2006 and, after bouncing around other organization’s minor league systems, was out of baseball by 2008, reluctantly giving up on his dream.
Field of Dreams
After leaving baseball, he co-founded X2 Athletic Performance in Arizona, a development center for athletes. This forced Hagerty to pick up a baseball again and, shortly after, began to notice that these so-called “yips” weren’t affecting him any longer.
Not only was this mental block no longer affected him but he was seemingly throwing better than ever, clocking in pitches upwards of 99 mph.
He decided to attempt the long-roaded comeback by participating in Driveline Pro Day as he showcased his skills in front of nearly 40 professional scouts.
His performance prompted Major League teams to turn their head at the aging pitcher, and a comeback began to gain some traction. The Milwaukee Brewers were one of those team interested in Hagerty but ultimately the Chicago Cubs, the team that drafted him nearly two decades ago, signed Hagerty to a minor league deal.
For baseball film buffs, Hagerty’s comeback story mirrors the tale of Jim Morris, the Texas high school teacher who pitched with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, making his Major League debut at the age of 35. Morris was the inspiration behind Disney’s 2002 film, The Rookie, as Dennis Quaid portrayed him.
Only eight pitchers in history have ever made their Major League debut after the age of 37. Hagerty will turn 38 on April 1 and while it is a long shot, what a romantic baseball comeback story if Hagerty was able to finally reach the Majors after all these years, finally achieving his dream.