Jon Mikrut: Chicagoan of the Week
With two iconic baseball teams, Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world for America’s pastime. Chicagoan of the week Jon Mikrut, has embraced Chicago’s rich baseball culture his entire life. Jon grew up in Lake Zurich and moved to Wauconda when he was in 7th grade, where his North side origins led to a love of the Cubs at a young age. The youngest of four, Mikrut followed the family tradition and attended Carmel High School in Mundelein where he played soccer, baseball, basketball, and football. Despite his diverse athletic skills, Jon explains, “Baseball was always my first love, and even though I had several offers to play either soccer or football in college, I stuck with baseball.”
Once he was set on playing baseball in college, Jon had to decide whose jersey he would proudly sport for four years. He was initially interested in going to a southern school on account of the good weather; however the allure of sunny and 60 in December began to grow less important the summer before his sophomore year of high school. This is when Northwestern University, which is located in Evanston, only a hop, skip and jump away from Chicago (and Wrigley Field!), began to show significant interest in the young player.
Jon was impressed by Northwestern’s illustrious academic reputation and their Big Ten status. The coaches assured him that he would get playing time his freshman year and that he could play shortstop, as well as pitch. With Northwestern only about an hour away from his home, Jon knew his family would be able to attend many of his games. So, when Northwestern offered him a scholarship in the fall of his senior year, he couldn’t refuse. A Wildcat was born.
Jon had a successful college career as both a shortstop and a pitcher, landing his name in Northwestern’s record book multiple times. As the end of college loomed, he set his sights on going pro. His dream came true shortly after his graduation from Northwestern in June of 2005, but it was not quite the way he imagined it. He signed a contract to play rookie ball in Johnson City, Tennessee…for a rookie team in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system. Of course, the Cubs-Cardinals conflict of interest didn’t prevent Mikrut from playing baseball, but it was not always easy.
“It was sometimes tough playing for the Cardinals and loving the Cubs at heart. I grew up a die-hard Cubs fan, watching guys like Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg play. But then going to Spring Training in Florida, I’m now around guys like Pujols, Carpenter, and Edmonds –- some of the most hated Cards for Cubs fans. Like most of the smart kids in the suburbs of Chicago, I dreamed of playing on the North side for the Cubs at Wrigley. Looking back, I think the only thing worse could have been playing for the White Sox.”
After playing in the Cardinal’s farm system for four years and rising to the AA level, Jon was released in 2009 due to a shoulder injury. Playing in the minors was not always easy, nor was it as glamorous as many might suspect, but for Jon it was a dream come true. Upon returning to the Chicagoland area, Jon was offered the position of Northwestern’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator (an offer he readily accepted) by head Coach Paul Stevens, the same man who had coached Jon as a Wildcat several years earlier. “I knew this was an incredible opportunity, and being able to go back to my alma matter made it even more special. It’s something I plan on doing for a long time.”
Jon is now a fulltime Chicago resident, currently residing in the Lakeview neighborhood and enjoying all the city has to offer…specifically an ivy-covered building at Addison and Clark. His favorite thing about Chicago is the fact that there is always something going on, especially during summertime, from the beach to the ballpark. Jon and his friends frequent the beer gardens and patios at establishments such as Justin’s, Kirkwood, Sheffield’s, and the Cedar Hotel. After spending some time in enemy territory, the Cubs fan has come home.