During his sophomore year of high school, doubt began to fester in the mind of McKinney North baseball alum Mike Bolsinger that the conclusion of his senior year would double as the end of his baseball career.
“I remember at the beginning of my junior year, I thought I was just playing baseball through high school and then I was going to be done with it,” Bolsinger said.
It took a letter he received his junior season expressing interest from Louisiana State University to rekindle his confidence.
“For [LSU] to see something in me, it kind of made me see something about myself,” Bolsinger said. “It was big motivation.”
Though he’s currently with the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bolsinger experienced that same aha moment he had his junior year with the Bulldogs as he pitched against his childhood team, the Chicago Cubs, as the starter for Arizona.
Bolsinger wound up attending college at another Southeastern Conference school in the University of Arkansas. He would be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft twice (Cleveland Indians in 2006 and Oakland Athletics in 2009) before signing with the Diamondbacks after he was drafted in 2010.
Four years later, he was called up from the minors two weeks into the 2014 season and was thrown in the whirlwind of the show.
“I was shocked [at being called up], because I didn’t think something like that would happen so fast early on in the season,” Bolsinger said. “All I was trying to do in Triple-A was just pitch well and things were going well. Still, just to get that call was very shocking and something that I’ll always remember.”
After facing off against the New York Mets (a 7-3 loss) and Los Angeles Dodgers (an 8-6 loss) he traveled with the team to Wrigley Field seeking his first major-league win.
The trip to Chicago was a homecoming for Bolsinger, who grew up in the Windy City cheering for the Cubs alongside his family, where Cub fandom spans three generations. His mother, Mary, a Chicago native, is a diehard Cubs fan, and so are Bolsinger’s grandparents.
“I hadn’t been to [Wrigley] in forever,” Bolsinger said. “To finally get to step on the field and play a game against a team that I had grown up liking, that my whole family has grown up liking, getting to see my family and friends in the stands while I’m pitching, that’s a priceless kind of moment.”
When Mary made the trip to Wrigley, she was joined by over forty friends and family members, who, on any other day at the ball park, would be rooting for the home team.
“You’ve never seen a bunch of people that loved the Cubs, root for the Diamondbacks,” Mary said. “I had a Wrigley Field sweatshirt on and a Diamondbacks’ jacket on.”
The mixed apparel might have signaled split loyalties, but with her son on the mound, there was no question which team she was backing.
“I cheered for the Diamondbacks, and I’m Catholic, I made the sign of the cross saying, ‘God forgive me’,” Mary said.
With family and friends in attendance, Bolsinger went 6.2 innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven, for a 5-2 win over the Cubbies to record his first major league win.
“It was definitely a dream come true,” Bolsinger said. “I grew up loving that team. It’s awesome that [Wrigley] is where I got my first win, especially with all my family and friends there.”
In his next outings, Bolsinger couldn’t recapture the magic he had found in Chi-Town as he was tagged for losses versus Colorado on April 29 (5-4) and at Milwaukee on May 5 (8-3) and was subsequently sent down to the minors on Monday to polish his change-up.
“It’s been working for me in Triple-A – being a two-pitch starter,” Bolsinger said. “I’ve been getting away with it, but at the big league level where there’s a lot of scouting and people know what you throw and you only got two pitches and you’re a starter, you’re probably not going to last very long up there.”
But with the win over the Cubs, just like with the letter from LSU, Bolsinger’s confidence in his game was strengthened to where he knows that he can compete in the bigs.
“After that game [against the Cubs], I just sat down in the locker room and thought, you know, I think I belong here,” Bolsinger said.
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