On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016, the Chicago Cubs beat out the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series, ending the team's 108-year World Series drought. Yet, the hype surrounding what some are calling the best World Series to date still hasn’t died down.
This year’s Cubs have become legends and heroes; they’re a team people will be talking about for years to come. Like anyone great, they all started somewhere. Some of these Cubs started their epic baseball careers at universities and colleges that many of us know and love. Here’s a look at a few 2016 World Series Champs that played College Ball.
1. David Ross — Auburn to Florida
The oldest man on the Cubs’ roster spent his college career at two SEC schools. Starting at Auburn University in 1996, Ross remained a Tiger through the following year and even saw a College World Series with Auburn. But after the ’97 season, Ross packed up his bags and headed to play for the Florida Gators. "Grandpa Rossy," as he is affectionately called by some younger Major League teammates, is one of a few players to have played in a College World Series with two separate teams, let alone two SEC teams. Rossy decided to forgo his senior year with the Gators to enter the MLB Draft in 1998.
2. Kris Bryant — University of San Diego
Kris Bryant exploded onto San Diego’s scene in 2011 as a freshman. Bryant quickly proved himself as an asset to San Diego and a threat to other teams. His first year as a collegiate player he was named a freshman All-American, the West Conference Co-Freshman of the Year and Co-Player of the Year. Bryant only added to his accolades as he progressed. His sophomore year, he earned first-team All American honors and was selected to play on the US Collegiate National Team. It was clearly an easy decision for the Cubs to select Bryant as the second overall draft pick in 2013. In the captivating 2016 World Series, Bryant made headlines as he couldn’t hold back his smile as he made the last out that allowed the W to fly on the world’s biggest stage.
3. Jake Arrieta — Texas Christian University
Transferring in from Weatherford Junior College after his freshman year, Jake Arrieta pitched for the Horned Frogs for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a sophomore, he won Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year and during his junior year (2007), Arrieta received First-team All-Mountain West honors. He got drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and even represented the USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With Theo Epstein’s rebuilding in full swing in 2013, the Orioles traded Arrieta to the Cubs. Jake proved himself as a strong contributor in Game six of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs, allowing just two runs on three hits and striking out nine Indians to help the Cubs get a "W" in the series.
4. Ben Zobrist — Dallas Baptist University
Ben Zobrist graduated high school with no offers to go play college baseball even on the table. He decided to play at the only school that finally offered him, Olivet Nazarene University. He played there for most of his collegiate career, then transferred to Dallas Baptist University for his senior year to play shortstop. In 2004, his MLB road began. Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros and then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. Later, after being traded to the Oakland Athletics and then the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago Cubs signed Zobrist as a Free Agent in 2015. Zobrist won a World Series with the Royals in 2015 and then went on to win this year with the Cubs. Proving himself as a prominent leader, Ben was honored as the 2016 World Series MVP Award.
Coghlan arrived in Oxford as a threat. He started his freshman year at third base 54 times. He was named on the SEC All-Freshman team. He then went on to be named on the All SEC teams for multiple years at the University of Mississippi. Coghlan was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 2006 draft. In 2013, he became a free agent and signed a minor league contract with the Cubs in 2014. But in February of 2016, the Cubs traded him to the Oakland Athletics. Four months later, he found himself back in Chicago as the athletics struck another trade with the Cubs. Needless to say, his second time around in Wrigley treated him well, making him a Champ.
Kyle Schwarber showed promise from the start. His powerful batting became an asset to the Hoosiers and Schwarber quickly proved himself. Schwarber raked in awards from the start; All-Big Ten second team catcher and he was a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Schwarber was named a first-team All-American as a sophomore in 2013 and again as a junior in 2014. He decided to forgo his senior season at Indiana, and was picked up by the Cubs with a minor league deal in 2014. He was called up to the majors in 2015 by the Cubs. Experiencing a torn ACL in the 2016 season, nobody knew if he would return. Despite his major setback, Schwarber entered the 2016 World Series as the designated hitter for the Chicago Cubs.
7. Matt Szczur — Villanova University
Matt Szczur is a very recognizable name around Villanova. Szczur was a standout in not just one sport, but two. Szczur was an offensive powerhouse on the football field and a standout outfielder on the baseball field. With off the chart baseball stats, the redshirt made his baseball debut as a sophomore in 2009. Szczur only had two seasons on the Villanova baseball team but he made a name for himself as one of the team’s top hitters to ever step up to the plate. Matt briefly considered an NFL career, but ultimately followed through with baseball being drafted by the Cubs in 2010.
8. Justin Grimm — University of Georgia
Justin Grimm was one that struggled to grasp consistency on the NCAA field. He appeared in 19 games in 2008 as a freshman at UGA. And as a sophomore, he saw 15 games with 15 starts. As a junior, Grimm was drafted in the 2010 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers and made his debut in the majors with the Cubs in 2013. His most memorable moment from the 2016 World Series? An epic double play that ended the inning at the top of the fifth in game three.
Kyle Hendricks began his career at Dartmouth as a freshman in 2009. He was named as a Freshman All-American and second team All-Ivy in his freshman year. “The Professor," as he was nicknamed, emerged as one of the top pitchers in the country in his junior year in 2011. Hendricks signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers in 2011 and later made his debut in the majors with the Cubs in 2014.
College athletes at one point, World Champs now. It's pretty cool to see that these Cubs that are currently on top of the baseball world all started somewhere, probably only dreaming of the World Series. Look at them now. The "W" is flying, and lots of colleges and universities are proud of their Cub Alumnus.
Lead Image Credits: Pexels