Greenberg: Local guy Mike Tauchman is ‘on a mission’ during his summer in the city

CHICAGO — Labor Day has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean Mike Tauchman has turned wistful for the summer that has gone by.

For one thing, the Cubs are playing for October these days, which is a nice return to form.

For another, the suburban Chicago native said he hasn’t gotten too caught up in the “Summer of Tauchman” fad or the “Palatine Pounder” T-shirts worn by his teammates this season.

Everyone loves a hometown kid, right? Especially when he’s hitting .300 at home.

The 32-year-old outfielder played 257 games in the majors from 2017 through 2021 for the Rockies, Yankees and Giants, and while coming home to the Cubs has meant a rise in his profile, unfortunately for the T-shirt companies, he’s not much of a self-promoter.

“It’s not really for me, it’s kind of for the fans,” he said. “If it’s something they’re having a good time with, you know, more power to them. But I try to really like think that the minute you start thinking that you got something figured out or the minute that you start thinking you got this game licked, that’s when it begins to kind of go bad for you.”

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed this season playing in front of friends and family, the people who have been with him since he left Fremd High for Bradley University and then embarked on the itinerant life of a baseball player. He and his wife live in Arlington Heights, not far from his parents in Palatine.

When you’re a Cub, you’re treated like royalty when you get to Wrigley Field. But when you’re driving there on the highway, you’re just another schmuck in traffic. But just being normal is part of the “Summer of Tauchman” as well.

“I haven’t really been able to sleep in my own bed for 11 years in the summertime, so that part of it’s definitely new, and makes you feel a little bit more like a regular Joe,” he said. “I know it’s a different shift. You wake up in your own bed and you drive to work every day and deal with traffic on I-90 every day. I’ve tried to just kind of keep perspective and understand that I’m extremely fortunate for the opportunity to play at home and play for the team that I grew up watching.”

Through 87 games, Tauchman, who signed a minor-league deal in January after playing in Korea last season, has been more than a nice, local story. He’s one of those additions on the margin that might wind up helping a team in a tight pennant race.

Since coming up in May, he’s slashing .258/.358/.382 with a 107 wRC+, seven homers and 45 RBIs, the latter of which are two off his career-high that he set in 2019 when he played in 87 games for the Yankees. He’ll set a new career mark for appearances with his next game.

Tauchman’s best month, by far, came in July, when he put up an .809 OPS in 22 games while mixing in a lot of center field with DH duties. Hence, the “Summer of Tauchman,” which became a Twitter thing. In the first eight days of August, he had four two-hit games.

His numbers dipped considerably since then — he’s 12-for-68 with one extra-base hit over his last 22 games — but he collected a four-hit game in Cincinnati on Sunday in a blowout win over the Reds.

Tauchman is known by local reporters as being more interested in talking swing mechanics than Chicago nostalgia. For all the publicity he’s gotten, none of it comes from him. He’s not selling anything, except, of course, his own performance.

“I think you see that in his game,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “And I think you see that in how he grinds an at-bat and the focus that he has on every pitch. You know, he’s as frustrated as anybody that we’ve got when he feels like an umpire may have missed one on him. He knows it’s like pitch to pitch for him as far as how hard he’s focusing and probably the path he’s gone on. … He’s on a mission, it feels like. He’s a great teammate, but he’s on a mission.”

Baseball talk aside, he’s still a Chicagoan, so he’s got high hopes when it comes to the Bears.

“I’m high on Justin Fields this year,” he said.

Tauchman said he still needs a Fields jersey — he has one for Khalil Mack and an Eddie Jackson with his old number. No surprise he’s skewing defense. For one, he’s a Bears fan, and two, he once picked off Rolling Meadows quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in high school.

Tauchman said he’s rooting for progress after last year’s three-win season and he is hoping to see the Panthers lose out and give the Bears another No. 1 pick to trade because “we’ve got a quarterback.”

While he wasn’t ready to start chanting “Super Bears, Super Bowl” in the clubhouse, he did offer a meatball prediction for this Sunday’s season opener against the Packers.

“Let’s go, Bears 31-10,” he said. “Justin throws three touchdowns.”

The summer of Tauchman is over, but maybe he could have a fall where he plays a role on a Cubs playoff run and enjoys some Bears victories on Sunday too. Sounds like every Chicago kid’s dream.

(Photo: Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

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