Chasing The Show: Former Chief Matt Pobereyko signs with White Sox
By: Aaron Ferguson
Eighteen months ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic a then-28-year-old Matt Pobereyko was the pitching coach for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen and South Suburban College.
Admittedly he was enjoying it after initially opting out of the 2020 American Association, but he still had an itch to pitch and was left with a choice: continuing his coaching career or trying to revive a pro pitching career after reaching Triple-A in 2018.
“The decision to go play during the pandemic, nobody’s getting any younger, especially in baseball years, as time’s going on,” he said. “In my head, there was still too much on the table ability-wise.”
The Bishop Noll grad left the Oilmen to play for the St. Paul Saints and nearly a year later was signed by the Miami Marlins. Now, six months after that signing and having played in several countries he signed a minor-league deal with the Chicago White Sox.
“Hopefully this year they’ve talked about starting in Triple-A with Charlotte, but if I take care of business I’m knocking on the door,” he said. “If I was to have the opportunity to debut this year, I sure hope it’s at home because there’s a lot of people who have been following along for as long as this has been going on.
As technology has become more readily available and data on guys is tracked, it’s amusing that Pobereyko has a pitch that causes issues with organizations’ Trackman analysis. He throws a forkball, which he began using in college and has turned into his out pitch.
“Sometimes it registers as a changeup, sometimes a knuckleball, sometimes a splitter,” he said, “… it raises flags instantly about what are you even throwing here?
“Obviously if this machine can’t tell what it is, it’s obviously pretty tough on hitters to decipher what it is.”
In 2020, Pobereyko finished the final month of the American Association season in St. Paul as preparation for the Dominican Winter League. Pursuing his dream further, he went to Mexico but as that didn’t work out he found himself with familiarity as he went back to Sioux City, which opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
He was nearly unhittable with a 0.66 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) and struck out 37 hitters in 24 1/3 innings before the Marlins called and assigned him to Pensacola, their Double-AA affiliate.
“They actually ended up calling and signing me in what was probably my worst week of pitching throughout the year,” Pobereyko said. “I’m guessing they must’ve seen the stuff leading up to it, thankfully.
While there, he pitched to a 1.17 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings and a 0.98 WHIP during his age 29 season.
“It’s been great to get the opportunity this past season with Miami and I think getting my foot back in the door with an affiliate at that point kind of has led to my chance to get with an organization this time around with the White Sox. It’s been a whirlwind,” he said.
Pobereyko, now 30, is looking forward to joining the White Sox, who are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances. The former Oilmen pitcher set the Midwest Collegiate League saves record, and becomes organizational depth for a team that features one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Though his goal remains the same.
“It’s exciting to enter an organization that is currently winning at the big-league level,” he said. “It makes it a little more enjoyable and it makes your role as a minor-league guy, you’re really working to get up there and help the big club. When there’s a lot more on the table, it’s really motivating because if you do get called up, you’re in a spot where you’re either in a playoff race or clinched. There’s a lot of pressure there but the way this career has gone, it feels like pressure is a good thing.”
The 6-foot-3 right-hander said he wouldn’t change anything about his career. He’s grateful for each experience and knows that it has shaped him into who he is.
“I think what my journey has been has built my mindset in this game and it’s made me tough, and it’s made me be able to get through a lot of these hurdles I’ve come across over the course of my career,” he said.
As for the coaching career, he’s still doing pitching lessons at Great Lakes Sports Hub in Crown Point before he has to report for spring training — which should be business as usual unless he’s put on the 40-man roster during the MLB work stoppage.
“I try to get these guys to invest in themselves a little bit and doing some more of what they need to do on their own time,” he said. “At the end of the day, nobody makes or breaks your career other than you. If you can learn earlier to take care of business on your own, you’re going to be better off.”
As his pursuit of a MLB debut continues, he lives what he teaches.
Said Pobereyko: “I love doing this and I think my biggest deterrent is the whole ‘real job’ thing early in my career. Before that I was able to play winter ball and make some money doing it year-round. … That was enough motivation that I put in my time early … I know what the grind is like outside of this and I’m just motivated to keep myself in this game as long as I can and as long as I’m able to play the game effectively.”
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