by Brendan Blakeley
On September 9, Nico Hoerner ’15 made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs. Batting 6th against the San Diego Padres, Nico had a debut for the ages, going 3 for 5 with a triple and 4 RBIs.
Nico’s meteoric rise since graduating from Head-Royce in 2015 has been impressive, to say the least. While a freshman at Stanford, Nico played 2nd base. His sophomore and junior seasons, Nico was the starting shortstop and was selected to the All-Pac 12 team.
After his junior year, Nico was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1st round, as the 24th overall selection in the nation. Nico spent two years in the Cubs minor league system, spending most of 2019 with their AA affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies, where he hit .284, with 3 homeruns, 22 RBIs, in an injury-shortened season.
Making the jump from AA to the major leagues is no small feat, and when the Smokies season ended, Nico found himself back in Oakland, enjoying time with his family before heading out to the Arizona Fall League. As fate would have it though, injuries to the Cubs starting shortstop and 2nd baseman left the team shorthanded heading into the stretch drive for the playoffs.
On Sunday, September 8, Nico was taking ground balls at the Head-Royce field with his father, Fred. Watching the Cubs play that afternoon, he got the call informing him he would be starting the next day for the team in San Diego.
Nico had many supporters in the stands at his first game, including friends from his days at Head-Royce and Stanford. Our very own coach, Mike Talps, who was Nico’s head coach while a Jayhawk, and longtime assistant coach Keith Richards, were able to travel down to the game to support Nico.
Not surprisingly, they were joined on their flight by Head-Royce alum and former teammate, Eian Peters ’14. Coach Talps described the entire scene as “surreal,” to think that one of his former players had made it to that level, and at such a young age. Nico is 22 years young, and is the first member of the MLB draft class of 2018 to make it to the big leagues.
Since his debut that fateful Sunday, Nico has taken the Cubs by storm. In his very first at-bat in Chicago’s fabled Wrigley Field, Nico hit the first pitch he saw for a homerun over the center field fence, endearing him even more to the Cub fans in attendance. Thus far, in 15 games, Nico is hitting .295, with 18 hits, 14 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 3 homeruns. He has three games with 3 or more RBIs. While the Cubs chances for a playoff berth took a hit last week, as the team was swept by the first place St. Louis Cardinals in four games, Nico has continued to shine, at the plate and in the field.
Nico’s parents, Fred and Keila, and his sister, Annika '19, were able to be with him in San Diego and again for his debut in Chicago. The buzz on the HRS campus that week was all about Nico making it to the big leagues, a first for a Jayhawk grad.
See Nico’s postgame interview from the Chicago broadcast here.
See the Cubs promotional video on Nico’s first home game here.
Fastforward this clip to the 3:30 mark, to hear Nico’s fans cheer his name as he knocks in his 4th run.