WRIGLEYVILLE — Jeremiah Paprocki was raised on the Cubs and grew up going to games on his mom’s shoulders. He had big dreams of making it to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 22-year-old isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown yet — but his microphone is.
The freshly-minted University of Illinois at Chicago graduate who just earned his degree in communications on Friday became the Cubs’ youngest and first Black PA announcer in team history in May. His barrier-breaking mic is now on display in the Hall of Fame alongside other artifacts from the 2021 MLB season, like Mookie Betts’ game-worn jersey and Shohei Ohtani’s cleats.
The rookie, who had to juggle announcing duties with his classes, still barely believes it, he said.
“It’s unreal, that’s for sure. How many people get to say they have something of theirs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?” Paprocki said. “My friends are reaching out, saying, ‘Can you imagine a kid walking by that display and saying, “Hey, I can do that, too”?'”
Paprocki’s meteoric rise to microphone immortality happened “zero to 100,” he said.
It wasn’t too long ago he was like any other college student, recording a tryout video for the Cubs job on a whim between spring break jaunts to Miami Beach with his buddies.
The UIC announcer soon found himself at Wrigley Field for a live audition. He flicked that microphone on and everything around him disappeared.
“I just locked in. All the nerves went away, and I was really just glued to the script,” Paprocki said. “Just having that confidence, knowing you got what it takes for it.”
Paprocki’s 50/50 raffle read was pitch perfect. The job was his. And the Baseball Hall of Fame was paying attention.
Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications, said the Hall of Fame typically collects about 50 items from each MLB season, marking a history of the game and how “baseball and America have grown up together.”
“There was definitely enthusiasm from the hall about Jeremiah’s story,” Shestakofsky said. “It’s an important moment to document someone talented, who’s younger, in a role that’s usually held for the old guard. And then also someone who is the first Black person to serve in that role, and to do so well — it’s Cubs history, but also the museum’s history.”
Paprocki donated the mic in hopes it inspires young broadcasters pursuing their own big league dreams in a sport that disproportionately lacks Black players and Black voices.
“Having a new mic didn’t make a difference. The mojo is all the same,” Paprocki said. “Even though baseball is very superstitious.”
Even though Paprocki let his history-making mic go, he does have some superstitions and rituals he maintains.
The announcer likes to get to Wrigley three hours before first pitch so he can walk around and take it all in. He shares secret handshakes with workers at their usual spots around the ballpark. Sometimes Paprocki will have a pregame hot dog (always with ketchup).
Paprocki said he’s settling into his dream job nicely. There’s no name too difficult to pronounce on the Cubs roster. His favorite is Frank Schwindel, and “there’s just something about the way Rafael Ortega’s name flows out.” He’s learned how to maneuver through the silent letters of Pittsburgh’s Yoshi Tsutsugo.
Performing at the big-league level has taught Paprocki the importance of preparation, “just being ready to read on the spot and feel comfortable at it.” That prep starts at his family’s dining room table in Logan Square.
“I’ll just sit at home and figure out how I would say it all at Wrigley,” Paprocki said. “So once the game starts, I’m ready to just sit back and enjoy the process.”
Next season will be Paprocki’s first Opening Day, and he’s already looking forward to announcing the entire Cubs roster, all the way through. Always dedicated to his craft, Paprocki continues to call games for the UIC Flames, and he has recently lent his voice to high school basketball around the city.
The born-and-raised Chicagoan has never been to Cooperstown. But Paprocki plans to make the pilgrimage with his mom “whenever I can squeeze that into my schedule.”
Graduating college and joining the Hall, Paprocki said he’s been on quite the run. But both accomplishments are equally as sweet.
“It should be everyone’s top priority to get a degree in some capacity,” Paprocki said. “But then also, it’s just like, what 22-year-old gets to say they’re in Cooperstown?”
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