Cubs’ Andrew Chafin: Chicago’s not-so accidental cult hero

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Andrew Chafin: The most interesting man in the bullpen originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

He once fit a full-sized Cummins diesel engine into a Ford Ranger compact pickup truck.

He makes more than $2 million a year, but won’t spend money for a haircut and wears T-shirts to work.

He once chose to sleep on an air mattress on a 33-year-old fishing boat in sub-40 temperatures rather than use his reservation at a five-star hotel.

And he strikes out major league hitters more often than Aaron Nola and Clayton Kershaw, has never seen the inside of a pitch “lab” and would choose to work as a mechanic if it paid as well as relief pitching.

Andrew Chafin is the most interesting man in the world.

Or at least the most interesting man in the Cubs’ bullpen.

“I’m just like every other feller out there. I want to go to work, make money, whatever,” said Chafin, who leads the Cubs in appearances (17) while producing a 3.38 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

“I just happen to be really good at standing on a pile of dirt and chucking a piece of leather.”

Chafin, who joined the Cubs Talk Podcast to talk about such things as dirt, engines, boats and his appreciation for John Wayne movies, obviously happens to be a lot more than that.

As Cub Nation’s fondness grows for their favorite left-hander, he is fast ascending to cult-hero status pitching this year for a team that might have to borrow some of his innate ingenuity for whatever success it ultimately achieves.

How did this happen? How did this hunter, farm owner and workshop wizard with the big mustache and evident disdain for nutritionists go from six under-the-radar quality seasons in Arizona to the breakout fan favorite in Chicago in just a few months?

The personality and offbeat passions were already there, and the happenstance of last summer’s trade to the Cubs introduced him to the possibilities.

But the methods were a little less accidental, with Chafin launching a YouTube channel this spring called Chafin Family Farms — which is named after his actual 200-acre farm that has cattle, horses, a chicken coop on wheels that he designed and built, stocked ponds, deer hunting expanse and a small garden his wife and in-laws tend for canning and other personal use.

“I felt like it had the potential to turn into what it’s turned into,” said Chafin, who has about 500 subscribers on his fledgling YouTube channel.

He’s up to 13,400 Twitter followers (@BigCountry1739) and has two Instagram accounts that go by the same names as his Twitter and YouTube channel handles.

“I’m going to try to keep going with it and see how big we can get it and have some fun with it,” he said. “I figured being over here with having the fan base the Cubs have, there’s no better time to get my feet wet in the social media side of things. …Might as well take advantage of the platform that I’m on or in right now.”

The projects he shows off in his videos range from impressive to spectacular.

A quick google search also reveals videos the Diamondbacks social media department produced, including an offseason day spent following him around his farm in Ohio, as he fed the horses, shoveled their stalls and showed off his cattle.

“We have a legitimate farm, but all we do is run cattle on it,” said Chafin, who leases out acreage for row farming. “I don’t have the equipment or manpower to do that at this point in time. Maybe someday.”

That generally was the plan when he bought the farm a few years, to raise kids, have a few animals, fish, hunt, build things and have everything he might want in one place once he retires from baseball.

“I bought it as a farm, but it’s ideally going to just end up being my playground down the road, where I can just go out and do whatever I want to do and be left alone,” he said. “That’s the plan: to be able to plop my butt down there after ball and never leave.”

Until then, he’s building a following for off-the-field interests like nobody else on the team — like few on the team before him.

And if the guy with the “new” 1988 fishing boat moored downtown and the “new” 1988, fire-engine red Firebird is growing an increasingly appreciative fan base, the feeling’s mutual.

“Arizona’s not a baseball city; we all know this,” he said. “So there’s not a huge fan base. Not a lot of people really care about baseball out there it seems. As soon as I see I’m coming here last year, I was like, `This is going to be fun.’

“People here understand the game and they love the game. In Arizona and many other cities where we played, people got to be told when to stand up and cheer. This year I noticed in big situations the fans just get up and do it. They know what’s going on. They understand the bigger situations, and they get on their feet and get loud and show their support for us.

“And I absolutely love that. That’s just awesome.”

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