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Kyle Farnsworth: Beyond the Tackle


Pic: Getty Images

When most Cubs fans think of Kyle Farnsworth, one specific moment in time usually springs to mind. You know the one--an opposing pitcher named Paul Wilson has a bit of a problem with a high, inside pitch Farnsworth has just thrown and wants to have a chat. Farnsworth, ever the accommodating soul, invites him to come to the mound for a gentlemanly discussion. Wilson takes him up on it and...



Wait right there. We'll get back to that.


A few months ago, I started to notice Farnsworth interacting with people on social media. It seemed like every time someone complimented him or tagged him in a thread, he was right there graciously thanking them or engaging in some way. He even replied to us with a "challenge":

Instead of wanting to fight, I thought I'd see if Farnsworth would talk to me. After all, I followed his career both with the Cubs and after with the Yankees and beyond. Not many professional athletes can retire from one sport and find themselves successfully playing a second. Much to my surprise, Kyle Farnsworth agreed to answer some questions, send me some photos, and what came of it is a renewed respect for a guy who still has a lot to offer the world.


Kyle Farnsworth at age 44 still cuts an imposing figure. If you look at his stats on the Orlando Phantoms roster, he's listed at 6'4" and 265 lbs. This was how he celebrated his birthday this year.

Five years ago, when Farnsworth decided to swap his glove for a football helmet and started crushing fools for the Orlando Phantoms, the Players Tribune published a piece he wrote called, "The Guide to Getting Old Man Strength". He shared some advice for us olds on how to keep in some semblance of shape. Because no matter who you are, there's a good chance that Kyle Farnsworth is in better shape than you are, especially if you're in your 40's and things are starting to feel like they're in their 60's. Trust me... I know.


Fast forward to now, when Farnsworth has opened his own training center in Winter Garden, Florida called Farnsworth Peak Performance to pass what he knows onto a new generation. "We train everyone from active adults, little kids, high school athletes and professional athletes. We do boot camps, speed and agility training and strength training, and have an indoor batting and turf field along with our other equipment," Farnsworth said of the facility, which has been closed to comply with COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders and is re-opening this week. "We have done some remote training to keep up with our clients," Farnsworth said of the down time during the worldwide pandemic. One look at the center's website shows that there is something for everyone, whether it's martial arts training, yoga classes, or batting cage rentals, and if I were in Florida I might go let their team whip me into shape!


As for football, it seems it might be time for Farnsworth to hang up his helmet for good and focus on passing that wisdom on. "I played 5 years with the Orlando Phantoms and after blowing my left knee out completely 2 years ago, I told myself I was coming back," Farnsworth said. "And I played last year and we won the Championship again so I retired. But I came out of retirement this year about 3 games into the season and then COVID-19 showed up so I never played and I am back into retirement." Yes, if you wanted to see Farnsworth play again, this is just one more thing you can be angry at COVID-19 for!


But what about Farnsworth's baseball career, you ask? While one moment in time has made Farnsworth a cult hero of sorts for Cubs fans--a titan in a pukka shell necklace--it's easy to overlook the career that Farnsworth built over his 16 years in Major League Baseball. The Cubs drafted Farnsworth straight out of high school in 1994 in the 47th round, giving him an opportunity that wouldn't exist in today's MLB. His biggest influences were two of MLB's greatest stars--first, starter-turned-reliever John Smoltz. "I wanted to pitch like him," Farnsworth said of the now Hall of Famer. Farnsworth also felt a more personal connection to a certain national baseball treasure and should-be Hall of Famer. "I loved Dale Murphy," Farnsworth said. "We went to the same church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I talked to him when I got drafted, which I will always remember." He also got guidance from another hard working major leaguer whose career lasted 20 years. "Terry Mulholland took me under his wing and helped me a lot. I will always be grateful for that."


Farnsworth began his career as a starter, but quickly took to the bullpen. If it felt like Dusty Baker called for him more than any other pitcher during his tenure as Cubs manager, it's because Farnsworth was clearly one of his manager's favorite weapons during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In fact, Farnsworth would go on to become one of the most durable, reliable relievers in the history of the game. "Being drafted in the 47th round, never would I have thought I would be 29th all time in MLB for games pitched," Farnsworth said, reminding me of an impressive stat that I'm not sure I even knew myself.


When all was said and done, Farnsworth had the kind of long, steady, respectable career that many pitchers would give their non-throwing arm for, finishing with a 4.26 ERA with nine different major league teams. His longest tenure was with our beloved Cubs, of course, so I had to ask him specifically about his time there. "I loved playing in Chicago," Farnsworth said, "maybe a little too much at times! I wouldn't change a thing I did." And what of his time with other teams like the Yankees, where fans can be a little... challenging? "There are differences to the cities, but I loved playing everywhere I went."



Some of the best answers are to questions you never asked. When Farnsworth sent me photos from his baseball days, every one had a little sidekick in them--his now 17 year old son Stone. It was a proud dad sharing pictures of his kiddo, who's now following in his footsteps playing the sport that first made his old man famous. As a parent myself, I had to smile because I know the exact feeling.

Kyle and Stone Farnsworth then...


Kyle and Stone Farnsworth now.


But back to that dust up with Paul Wilson...


After such a long, successful career, it has to be tiresome to have the thing most people remember about you be a fight with an opposing team's pitcher, even if you did body slam him to the ground like a ragdoll, right? "I don't mind," Farnsworth said. "It's part of the game and I will never back down from anyone and will always protect my teammates." And the pukka shell necklace? "The necklace broke when while we were down in Puerto Rico playing the Expos when I was swimming in the ocean," Farnsworth said with a chuckle.



Who knows... now that football is done, maybe we can get Kyle Farnsworth to give baseball another go. He certainly looks like he could still help out the bullpen.


All photos courtesy of Kyle Farnsworth unless otherwise noted.



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