With his father, Sam Samardzija, a semi-professional hockey player, and his brother, Sam Samardzija Jr., an All State football and baseball player, former Hawk, Jeff Samardzija, had some pretty big shoes to fill. Samardzija grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana where he would become a letterman in not one but three sports, football, basketball and baseball.
Samardzija started playing baseball at the ripe age of six when just about every American boy begins tee ball. Eventually, “It becomes what you do.” While playing multiple sports in high school, Samardzija accepted an athletic scholarship to Notre Dame where he played football from 2003-2006 and baseball from 2004 to 2006. He was recognized as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine and continued to play at Notre Dame until he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft.
Ultimately it was the rush he got from playing baseball that made his decision between the NFL and MLB. “I woke up in the morning excited to go to the park and work hard, I knew I’d have the commitment for baseball.” One thing that always kept him going was his older brother who he was always trying to keep up with. As Samardzija put it, “It kept me on my toes.”
Looking back over his years on the road to Wrigley, the best advice he has received is something we’ve all heard before, “Just go out and have fun and enjoy doing what you do.” For Samardzija the last two years have been pretty wild. “Where I was in 2010 to where I am now is a total 180.” He is just glad to see that his hard work has paid off!
A Little Extra …
Do you have a most memorable moment in sports?
“Your first time getting called up is always pretty sweet and your first strike out is always awesome too but you always remember those times when you were a little kid too. I remember being a little guy playing 12 year old All-Stars and hitting a homerun in the top of the 6th and then I came back and threw in the bottom of the 6th to win the game and pitched the six innings, so doing both of those was pretty cool I’ll never forget that.”
What do you remember most about Boise?
“Well Downtown apparently, I found myself down there a lot. The stadium was great, I loved living out in Boise, I loved the outdoor scene that’s out there. I’m a big fisherman and I enjoy going camping and everything, hiking, backpacking, I fit in pretty well out there and there’s a lot to do. I drove out there from Chicago to get ready for the season so I remember that 28 hour drive from Chicago to Boise and to be able to see the sites on the way in and really take it in was a great experience to be out there and it’s by far the best city, you know, there or Vancouver.”
What are your expectations for this season?
“As a team obviously you want to make the playoffs I think that every year you start out you want to get in either through the wildcard game or winning the division and making the playoffs but making the playoffs and playing in October is the most important thing. You know you want to win a World Series and you can’t do that without making the playoffs. That’s the number one plan for me. Personally it’s just to stay healthy and throw as many innings as I can for this team as a starter. It’s a big part of being one of those guys, If you’re one of the 5 guys who needs to do your part innings wise, pitch deep in the games and give your team a chance to win.”