Most people look forward to summer as a chance to enjoy nice weather and take it easy. But Minnetrista native Rollie Lacy looked ahead to this summer as a chance to prove himself as a professional baseball player. His pro career began last year when the Chicago Cubs chose him as a pitcher in the 11th round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Lacy played his first baseball as a 4-year-old in Texas, where his family lived at the time; they moved to Minnetrista six years later. His fondest memories of the game date back to his Little League days, at Wolner Field in Mound, where Lacy could not only play with and against his neighborhood friends, but also sit in the press box and “announce” friends’ other ball games.
“It was the most fun baseball I’ve ever played,” says Lacy, whose parents, Tim and Claudia, still live in Minnetrista.
After winning all-conference and all-state honors at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Lacy earned a baseball scholarship to Creighton University in Omaha, a perennial power in the sport.
Lacy learned a lot from his first coaches—his dad, a former football player at St. John’s University, and his grandfather in Texas—and he was midway through high school when he realized he had a special talent for the game. He says his competitive spirit and affinity for being on the mound, controlling the game, took over, and he became a dominant high school pitcher.
At Creighton, Lacy augmented his natural ability by “learning to make the right pitches based on the situation, and working on my off-speed pitches,” he says.
He also took advantage of one of the most highly rated strength and conditioning programs in college baseball to help him mature physically. Along with weightlifting, he did a lot of distance running and wind sprints to learn “explosiveness and quickness. In pitching, all of the power comes from the legs,” he says.
After signing a contract last summer, Lacy spent the second half of the season making his pro debut with the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, a Cubs Class A farm team. “It was exciting, nerve-racking, fun and a new frontier, all at the same time,” Lacy says. “It was good to get my feet wet and fun to see some of the guys I played with and against in college.”
This winter he spent time at a Cubs prospect camp in Mesa, Ariz., before heading to spring training. His goal for the season: “To prove I’m good enough to play at this level, contribute to the team and make it far into the playoffs,” he says.
One of the people Lacy credits with helping him develop as a pitcher was Brian Furlong, who coached him in 2016 and 2017 in his role as Creighton’s pitching coach. Furlong, now a coach in Illinois, says Lacy deserves the credit. “He came in as a red-shirt freshman and didn’t have a role on the Creighton team,” Furlong says. “But he committed himself to working his tail off and put himself in a position to become one of our starters for three years. A lot of it was his internal drive to continuously improve.”
Lacy hopes that drive will propel him to Wrigley Field.