Baseball continued to make its mark on “The Bachelorette” reality show, with former Cubs farmhand Chris Siegfried winning the hand of Bachelorette Desiree Hartsock in last week’s season finale. Baseball America caught up with Siegfried, an 11th-round pick out of the University of Portland in 2007, in the midst of a whirlwind week to talk about his baseball career and how it helped him compete in the cutthroat world of reality television.
Your college coach Chris Sperry said you made a huge jump from high school to your junior year at Portland. How rewarding was it to get drafted by the Cubs?
It was great. Going from high school to walking onto my college team and earning a spot was just a blessing. And then I kind of had to prove myself. And at the same time, the fastball was developing, and that, along with my size and stuff, I think the Cubs really just kind of gave me the opportunity to play based off of potential. Obviously, if you look at my numbers in college, they weren’t really good (laughing). It was just such an awesome chance. I was really, really excited for it. My family and coach Sperry were excited for it and were kind of looking forward to seeing what would come of it.
What was your pitching mindset and what were your weapons on the mound?
My whole mindset on the mound is just trying to keep the ball down. The Cubs really tried to reinforce in us our mindset when we’re out on the mound is to keep the ball in the lower half of the strike zone. When I was out there, I was always trying to just get ground balls to get the defense to work. That was my mindset every single time. My two weapons were a sinker and a slider. After my first year of pro ball, I had a curveball going in, but I realized I needed something that would break on more than just one plane. So we started fiddling around with a slider, and that became my bread-and-butter pitch just because I would use it a lot on lefties. I used to throw my slider 35 percent of the time and my fastball 65—those numbers are usually not the ones you want to pitch off of—but I could definitely pitch off of my slider.
You had the chance to pitch in spring training for the Cubs. Did you have the chance to meet anyone in that rotation or pick anyone’s brain a little bit?
You always had guys coming in and out of the clubhouse, whether it be rehab starts or you know. When Greg Maddux came on (as an assistant to the general manager in 2010), he would always come around and talk to all the pitching staffs, and we’d always pick his brain. I remember one day specifically sitting in Daytona in the bullpen with Greg Maddux sitting there and talking to me about how he would just work on certain pitches during his bullpen workouts. Instead of going through all of the pitches, like three here, three there, he would just say, “If you’re really working on a fastball outside going away, just focus in on your bullpen on that.” So that kind of stuck with me. It was nice to hear that from such a respected player, a game changer in baseball. He was one of the guys that I looked up to growing up and my dad looked up to. And it was just fun to have him in the bullpen with us and on that coaching staff.
Were you a Cubs fan growing up?
Actually, I was more into soccer growing up. I was more into baseball my sophomore year of high school when I had to make a decision whether it was going to be baseball or soccer. I mean, I watched baseball with my dad a lot. We always played together, but soccer was my sport until the middle of high school. I liked watching Andy Pettitte and Curt Schilling, and my dad was a huge fan of Steve Carlton, so I watched a lot of games from that era. I didn’t really have an affinity to any specific team.
Because you started so late, sophomore year of high school, did you ever envision that you would be drafted as high as you were or that you would be drafted by a major league team?
No. I had no idea. I always thought it would be an awesome opportunity, but I always was fighting just to make the team. And when the Cubs came to me junior year, I started to realize that it was becoming more of a reality. I mean, I did well in the league in college, but I just never really envisioned it in high school.
Your coach didn’t remember if it was your elbow or shoulder, but what arm injury did you deal with?
I got released by the Cubs on the last day of spring training in 2011. I went on to play baseball with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, an indy ball team up north, and I heard a pop in my elbow, and I went in and got it checked out by a surgeon, and he had said that there was a partial tear in my elbow, so that sidelined me for about nine months. It wasn’t severe enough to get Tommy John Surgery, but it was bad enough that I had to do rehab for nine months, and during that time, I really had to put things into perspective, and I was about 25 at the time, so I had to figure out if that was something I wanted to continue to pursue—my dreams of major league baseball—or finish up school and start a new career path.
Is there anyone you still keep in touch with from going through that Cubs system?
Kyler Burke is one of my best friends in pro ball. I was in his wedding. He was just texting me before this. He was one of the guys that I’ve really kept in touch with. Brandon Guyer, who’s moved on to Tampa, Chris Archer, both of them were part of some trades. I’m definitely friends with those guys, and other guys, but I kept in touch with them the most, and I still do.
Your coach said you go back and play alumni games in Portland.
Oh yeah, those are the best. You know, go back and watch all the new guys, but you get back together with the old team. And I get to hit, so I love that. Yeah, it’s coming up here in September. It’s fun.
What kind of reaction are you expecting this year?
A little bit different of one (laughing). Everyone’s been very supportive of the show, and everything about that, but everyone’s always been really supportive of my baseball career, too. It’s such a tight-knit family there, so when guys do go and pursue a professional career, they really support you the whole way. So now it’s just another interesting dynamic, if you will.
How did you end up getting on the show and deciding you wanted to be on it?
I was just jumping into a cab, and some scout for the show came up to me and asked me if I wanted to do an interview. And I was like, “No, come on. I just moved up here and just got a new job in Seattle.” And I got back home and was sitting down with my roommates, and they were like, “You should totally do it. You’re single, and it’s a new city. Who cares? Just have fun.” And then I called the girl back up, and I was like, “Hey, I was that guy who met you while I was getting in that cab. I’d really love an interview.” And the rest is kind of just history. It went well, and here I am, engaged to Desiree.
So it’s a different kind of scouting than baseball scouting—but kind of the same idea.
Yeah, a little bit different. But they’re looking for talent, I guess (laughing).
Having played professional sports and knowing all of the competitiveness that goes with that, did you bring any of that competitiveness with you being on that show?
Yeah, good question. Actually, a lot of the interviews I’ve been in for this, one of the things they keep saying over and over is that I did a really good job on the show kind of compartmentalizing everything. And I really do attribute that to baseball and professional sports and that team atmosphere. Going on that show, I was really just focusing on my relationship with her that was developing, and viewers could see that a little bit, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes. I focused on her and I, and for example, my relationship with Brooks (Forester, a fellow contestant) was individual of my relationship with Des, and his relationship with her was individual of our relationship.
So I just keep all of those in little boxes, if you will. It’s kind of weird, but it’s very similar to baseball in that you really can only control the things that you can control. You can only work on that one thing at that one time, and then once it leaves your hands, it’s up to fate and location and trust, and that’s really what I did with the show. I just focused on the individual relationships that I was building with everyone. I mean, I was with a bunch of guys who I never met, and I was going to be with them presumably—well, now everyone knows—but the whole time, for two months living with them and sharing this crazy emotional journey. I just did a really good job of compartmentalizing everything and not worrying about everyone else because it wouldn’t have worked if I was too concerned with everybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to be as open as I was and enjoy the time like I did . . . Baseball definitely helps. You’re always around guys that you may or may not enjoy their company, but you have to figure out how to get along with them because you’re going to be with them for 140 games or two months on a television show.
What’s more nerve-wracking: pitching in a late-game situation with runners on base or the final days of that show?
(Laughs) I got to pitch at Wrigley in front of like 30,000 when we (low Class A Peoria) played Kane County and Ryne Sandberg was our manager in 2008. So that was nerve-wracking. But then that was something I was so used to, right? I had been in those situations where I was pitching in front of thousands of people and people on base—that’s kind of what we were groomed and trained for. I was never trained for standing in front everybody on a rose ceremony in front of cameras, having my fate decided by her. It was a little different (laughing). It was definitely nerve-wracking. I don’t know which one was harder. I guess for fun, we’ll say the rose ceremony was more challenging.
Is it weird now getting baseball questions about your career after the fact?
No, no, it’s fun. Baseball was a huge part of my life for so many years, but I moved on. I’m happy to say that I played for the Cubs, and I still follow them a lot and watch all the moves and trades and rumors and follow my friends who are up now. It’s fun to watch those guys, but I definitely moved on from that that. And now, I can just go to a Mariners game and enjoy sitting in the stands and watching the game from a different perspective.
What are your plans career-wise? You were a mortgage broker going into it. Is that what you’re still continuing to do?
It’s back to business as usual. I’ve been going right back to work. And I love it. It’s crazy to say that I think I’ve found the job that I can see myself doing for 10 or 15 years. So we’re moving to Seattle actually this weekend. (Desiree’s) going to work on her bridal line that she likes to put out and open up a bridal boutique. And I’m just going to go back to banking and helping people get homes. Pretty normal lives.
Was it difficult for you to not give away the ending of the show to family and people who called you?
It was, yeah, because it was such a cool experience that I was able to go through. Other than signing a contract, I didn’t want some people to know because it was such a cool surprise the way it was developing and the way they were unveiling it. It was hard not to tell people, but at the same time, it was kind of fun. I just told everyone, “Hey, just watch and enjoy it and know I’m going to be fine, and we’ll talk at the end.” And that was the only reassurance I could offer people. They were like, “I don’t know if I should be happy for you or console you or how I should feel.”
What advice would you give if someone came to you—if I came to you and said I was going to be on “The Bachelorette” next season—what advice would you give that person?
I would just tell them to go into it with an open mind and an open heart and just kind of have fun and enjoy the experience. But go into it with the possibility that you might actually find the woman of your dreams and the person that you could see yourself with for the rest of your life, and don’t be scared about it.
Don’t go on it with a girlfriend (laughing). Do not go on it with a girlfriend, or you will be chastised.