When Cubs scout Al Geddes drafted Chris Siegfried out of the University of Portland in 2007, he saw big league potential. He thought Siegfried was "an excellent kid" and a hard worker--intelligent with good height and a solid build.
Now, Siegfried has finally put those tools to good use . . . just maybe not in the way Geddes was expecting.
On Monday night, Siegfried capped off a perfect game (in the game of love), striking out the last of his opposition to win the heart of Desiree Hartsock.
As it turned out, Geddes had not just drafted a talented lefthanded arm all those years ago; he had also drafted a future winner of ABC's "The Bachelorette."
"My wife turned it on last night when we found out that he was a finalist," Geddes said, laughing. "Surprised the heck out of me ... It was like, 'Holy moly!' You never expected that."
Siegfried's former college coach, Chris Sperry of Portland, was surprised by the reality show victory as well--but for different reasons.
Sperry's wife and three young daughters had kept him in the loop about Siegfried's progress on the show, and they had their doubts about the former pitcher's chances going into Monday's finale.
"I was a little surprised (he won) because of the reports that I was getting through my family--they follow these "Bachelorette" spoilers," Sperry said. "They were under the impression with the information that had been leaked that he was going to finish third in this deal."
ABC’s Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has been pairing prospective couples up since 2002, with the designated Bachelor or Bachelorette picking from a field of typically 25 members of the opposite sex. Siegfried is the second baseball player in the last four seasons of “The Bachelorette” to walk away as the winner. Roberto Martinez, a Tampa native who was drafted twice and played at the University of Tampa before graduating in 2005, won the hand of bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky in 2010. As usually happens in the aftermath of the show, they broke up about a year later. Amazingly enough, another Tampa alum, and a former Yankees farmhand, Nick Peterson, won a spinoff version of the show called “Bachelor Pad,” pocketing $250,000 for his efforts rather than the promise of love.
An 'Instant Prospect'
For a while, the odds this season seemed stacked against Siegfried, with fellow contestant Brooks Forester looking like the clear frontrunner. But in a surprising twist, Forester left the show, saying he was no longer in love with Hartsock. It left Hartsock broken-hearted, but it also cleared a pathway for Siegfried.
Soon, a field of 25 potential spouses had been narrowed down to just one.
"It was pretty exciting at the end," Sperry said. "I have to admit."
But it wasn't the first time Sperry's seen Siegfried beat the odds. While at Jesuit High in Portland, Ore., a tall, skinny Siegfried didn't throw particularly hard--about 77-78 mph with his fastball, Sperry estimates.
He wasn't heavily recruited, and he wound up walking on at Portland. Still, the potential for growth was there.
"He was a guy that just kind of figured things out as he went and got a little stronger," Sperry said. "He made a real jump. He always had a curveball he could land, and it was a real hammer.
"So once the fastball came along with his size and being lefthanded, he was an instant prospect."
Geddes, who scouted and signed Siegfried for the Cubs, agreed with that assessment. By his junior year, Siegfried was touching 92-93 mph with his fastball and flashed an above-average breaking ball. At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he had a projectable major league frame. The Cubs took Siegfried in the 11th round of the 2007 draft, and Geddes said he could envision Siegfried one day making it to the majors.
"I figured that he could probably get there," Geddes said. "Being lefthanded, he has a better chance than most people. The biggest problem Chris had was control. But other than that, he had everything else: fastball, his slider was above-average. Sometimes he just had a little trouble finding the plate."
In 282 minor league innings, Siegfried was 13-19, 4.70 with 215 strikeouts and 123 walks, working primarily in relief. He advanced to high Class A Daytona in 2009, and he continued to play there in 2010 as a 24-year-old.
Unfortunately, that's where his baseball career would come to an end. An arm injury derailed him, and Siegfried embarked on a career as a mortgage broker. He now lives in Seattle, where he and Hartsock have announced their plans to live together.
"It's too bad that those things happen to anybody, " Sperry said. "He had stuff that made you think that he could play for a while."
Every Bachelor and Bachelorette season is designed to end with a wedding proposal. After Desiree professed her love for him in the series finale, a teary-eyed Seigfried took a second to compose himself.
"I have something to say, and I'm confident in saying this 100 percent," he said in the final moments of show. "It's not just a yes or a no, it's, Do you want to grow old together? Do you want to share your experiences with me together? Can I share mine with you? Do you want to start a family? Do you want to have kids?"
Siegfried then took both of Hartsock's hands in his and knelt down on his right knee.
"Desiree Hartsock," he said. "I want to be your first, and I want to be your last."
It was the first and only episode of "The Bachelorette" that Chris Sperry had seen, but he said the Siegfried he saw on television was the same Siegfried he saw while at Portland.
"You got a pretty honest perspective of the kind of person he is," Sperry said. "I mean, there were some talents that came out that I didn't know about--his writing and poetry and that sort of stuff.
"But in terms of the honesty that he deals with people and that he cares with people, I think that that's real genuine."
Siegfried, like many lefthanded pitchers, has a bit of a goofy personality, Sperry said. He's wiry and high strung, but Sperry emphasized that he was also a great teammate.
Siegfried called his former coach about six weeks ago, asking for details on the latest Portland alumni game--while also making sure not to spill the beans on what happened with the show. Siegfried competes in the alumni game every fall, showing respect for the university that gave him a chance to blossom on the mound. With the former Pilot now residing in Seattle, Sperry doesn't see him quite as often as he used to, but he makes sure to keep in touch.
After Monday night, the two certainly had plenty to talk about.
"I sent him a text this morning and said that 'You should be proud of the person you've become,'" Sperry said. "I think you got a good feel for him watching that last night.”