Cishek is pronounced SEE-shek.
Teammates nicknamed him "Bambi."
And "Speedpass" is another nickname. Cishek worked as a gas station attendant when he was in high school in Falmouth, Mass. The gas station used a "Speedpass" device as a payment option, something that Cishek's friends saw as an opportunity for a new moniker. As a group of his buddies were driving by Cishek's place of employment one day, they rolled down the window and yelled, "Hey, Speedpass!" as they drove by. When he arrived at school the following day, Cishek discovered that, for better or worse, the name had stuck.
Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff call Cishek "Shrek." "'Shrek' is like my professional baseball nickname," Cishek explained. "That's the first nickname I got from Day 1 when I got drafted. Our pitching coordinator with the Marlins asked me my nickname, and I said, 'Speed pass.' And I gave him my college nickname, which is 'Roy,' and then he said, 'Well, Cishek is tough to say, so we'll go with 'Shrek.' (Muskat - mlb.com - 8/23/2018)
Cishek is the first player from Carson-Newman University in Tennessee to reach the Majors since pitcher Clyde Wright in 1966.
Steve is from Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.
During the offseason, Cishek drives one hour and 45 minutes from Cape Cod to Hudson, Massachusetts for winter workouts at Cressey Performance. A lot of minor leaguers and Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis train there. The players throw medicine balls around and pound a tractor tire.
You won't find a Nautilus machine or a single mirror inside the warehouse-type building located 45 minutes west of Boston.
- In 2007, Steve got drafted by the Marlins (see Transactions below).
In 2011, Baseball America rated Steve as the 19th-best prospect in the Marlins' organization.
Many of his friends call him Shrek.
Steve Cishek, who grew up about 75 miles from Boston, on the Cape Cod peninsula, once imagined that his backyard was Fenway Park and he was former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn, peppering the roof of his childhood home with Whiffle-ball blasts. Once he outgrew Vaughn, he fancied shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Cishek grew up in Falmouth, a town of about 30,000. He designed a cut-out diamond in his backyard and dreamed of becoming the next Vaughn or Garciaparra for the Red Sox.
“I have a poster of Nomar that’s still in the wrapper,” Cishek said. “I didn’t want it to ever get ruined.”
After Cishek started pitching, he wanted to model himself after Lowe but—with his natural sidearm delivery—couldn’t. Eventually he became fascinated with Bronson Arroyo. “He always seemed to step up and eat up innings,” Cishek said. “Nobody ever paid any attention to him, so I figured I would.”
Cishek’s fiancée, whom he dated at Falmouth High School in Massachusetts, once gave him a Red Sox jersey with Arroyo’s name on the back. Cishek had Arroyo sign the jersey when the Marlins were in Cincinnati. Cishek said that Arroyo signed his name and “World Series Champs–2004.” “I have all kinds of Red Sox caps, one of every color probably,” said Cishek. “I know I have a camouflage one, a white one, and a red one. But the only jersey I have is Arroyo's.”
- March 2013 World Baseball Classic: The beauty of the Classic is it gives international exposure to players who don't always get the attention. Cishek is one of them. He soaked in the energy and enthusiasm of the games. Against the Dominican Republic, it was an electric atmosphere.
"It was crazy," Cishek said. "I don't know what to compare it to. The fans were just yelling non-stop the whole game. When you get out there, it's like a whole different level. It was just unbelievable. It gets your blood flowing. You just can't wait to get out there."
Cishek thought up a fabulous way to say thank you to Julia Massi, who is serving in Afghanistan. He sent Massi, the sister of his childhood best friend, a pair of camouflage Marlins' jerseys like the ones they wore for their 2013 Memorial Day weekend series at the White Sox. Team members autographed one with her name and the number 20 on the back. Massi also received a Cishek jersey, which she promised to wear on a mission.
“This is her second deployment out there,” Cishek said of Massi, who is in the Air Force.
For anyone who follows Steve on Twitter, it is very evident how important his faith is in his daily life. He mentions it on a daily basis. My faith impacts me in all aspects of life. I trust in the Lord in all I do and give him glory for everything as is said in 1 Corinthians 10:31. I realize there is more to life than baseball and my faith in God is my number one priority. If I maintain that faith then the rest of life; family, baseball, social encounters, financial stuff, etc., all line up for His glory.
How difficult is it to maintain this faith through the grind of a 162-game season? It definitely can be tough to carve out time if you aren’t aware of how much time you really have. If we discipline ourselves enough and go to bed and get up at a normal time, then we have plenty of time to focus on the Word. It gets tough when people visit or ask for your time on the road. However, even when we are at the ball park, we have time to dive into the Word and have Bible studies with our teammates, which creates a camaraderie like no other.
What do you credit with getting to where you are today? I think it would definitely be safe to say I wouldn’t be here without my faith. I have a lot to be thankful for. One is my attitude. Although I didn’t show it, I had a terrible attitude in the past. If things didn’t go my way, I shut down and gave up. This was clearly shown in my year in Greensboro as a Grasshopper.
I was so concerned with what people thought that I would shut down and be scared … soft really. How do you handle the pressure to act a certain way with the commitments you have made? At first I thought I had to act a certain way, but I have realized that if I truly have Christ in me then I don’t have to do anything but glorify Him. But when all eyes are on you, I want to make sure that my actions, whether win or lose, are honorable to Him. [For instance], if I blow a save, I’m not screaming obscenities and body slamming trash cans. (Chris Logel - 1/15/2014)
Miami manager Mike Redmond said, "I think people understand how good Steve is. He may not get talked about as much as some of the other closers, but, man, we sure are lucky to have him. I feel good having him down there and knowing what he brings to the ballclub and how important he is."
Closing big league games can often be a wild ride, which is perfectly fine with Cishek. The unassuming Marlins closer thrives on the rush of pitching with the game on the line. "I'm an adrenaline junkie," Cishek said. The art of closing is an adrenaline rush in its own way.
Not to the point of jumping out of airplanes, but the thrill of the ride gets Cishek going—on and off the field.
When it comes to his craft, you don't hear a lot of bluster out of Cishek. The Falmouth, Mass., native doesn't draw any unnecessary attention to himself. Yet, he's quietly emerged as one of the best closers in the game since he took over the position from Heath Bell after the 2012 All-Star break.
Since then, Cishek has converted 94 percent of his save chances (63 of 67). Only San Diego's Huston Street had a higher conversion rate, at 95.3 percent (61 of 64). (Stats are as of June 13, 2014.)
The common bond all the top closers possess is the ability to channel their emotions to get those final outs. "If I don't have adrenaline, that's when I'm usually in trouble," Cishek said. "The velocity is the same, but the conviction behind the pitches isn't the same." (Frisaro - mlb.com - 6/12/2014)
Deeply religious, part of Cishek's routine is to read a Bible verse before he throws his first pitch. He keeps the script card in his back pocket. "It helps me relax," he said. "Then I'm dialed in. If I'm dialed in, that means I'm not hearing anything around me—none of the fans wearing me out or anything."
At that point, Cishek's focus is on the signs of the catcher—Jeff Mathis or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "All I see is Jeff or Salty throwing down the signs, and I'm going to work," Cishek said in 2014.
The Bible verse is the same one Cishek has read to himself ever since he broke into the big leagues: Colossians 3:23. "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men."
"For me, it makes it easier," Cishek said. "I could recite it in my head, but pulling it out of my back pocket makes me slow down and take my time a little bit when I just want to go, go, go. I can sit back and read some scripture to really set my mind and get after it with hitters." Steve has maintained that since he debuted in the Majors with the Marlins in 2010. Before that, he carried a basketball card of a neighbor who passed away in high school. The card featured a motivational saying."I kept running out of cards because they got too sweaty," Cishek said. "That used to help me put things into perspective."The unusual sight of a pitcher pulling out a piece of paper on the mound has become a conversation starter for Cishek, who has been asked many times if he's carrying scouting report information around. But Cishek is used to explaining the unexpected. He often finds himself clarifying why he has the name "Manuel Domingos" stitched on his glove instead of his own. It is the name of his grandfather, who passed away in 2003."I know it's my glove, so I can put anything I want on there," said Cishek. "Plus, my grandmother loves it."
No matter what happens in a game, Steve knows his daughters will always be his biggest fans, and that's a great thought to have on Father's Day.
In March 2018, Cishek's first Spring Training outing with the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., didn't go as well as he'd hoped, but his two girls helped him forget that almost immediately. "As soon as I came out to walk back to the clubhouse, I happened to run into my wife [Marissa] and my girls," Cishek said of his daughters, Emmie and Avery. "Emmie, out of nowhere, says, 'Daddy, you were amazing.' That's awesome. I pitched poorly, but to her, it was incredible. She understands what I was actually doing out there.
"Being a father just puts everything in perspective. You don't have any time to yourself when you're home, nor does my wife. If I'm being serious, it shows you how selfish you can be with your time. When the kids need it and you want to be doing something else, you have to drop everything and be with your kids, and that's part of being a good parent. It's been awesome for us. We really enjoy spending time with the girls, and it's been fun."
Emmie is 3 1/2 and Avery is 1 1/2, so being a dad is still somewhat of an adjustment to Cishek. "If you have a bad game, I used to take it home with me pretty hard," said the right-handed reliever, now in his ninth Major League season. "With the family, you can't do that. The kids are relying on you to be loving to them. As soon as the game's over, I head home and trash that outing and just enjoy my family. My daughters are just excited to see me pitch."
Emmie has even tried to pitch like her dad. "She'll mimic my throw every now and then," Cishek said. "She'll throw a ball and it's like sidearm. I don't know if she means to do it, but it's hilarious and we roll with it."
Cishek did get Emmie her own glove, but right now, she likes playing catch with a bouncy ball. One thing that didn't take long for the girls to learn is the song, "Go Cubs Go," which is played at Wrigley Field after a win. "Emmie likes to sing as it is, she's nonstop," Cishek said.
Cishek will also take a moment on Father's Day to think about his grandfather, Manuel Domingos, too. His name is stitched on Cishek's glove.
"Ever since I was able to put a name on a glove, I put his name on it," Cishek said. "I know whose glove it is and I wanted to put something on there that means a lot to me. My family is from Portugal, and my grandmother sees it on TV and she thinks it's the greatest thing ever. It makes her all emotional. I won't ever have a different glove out there. That's the main reason I wear it, because when she sees it on TV, it lights her up."
His grandfather didn't teach Cishek to play baseball. Cishek's father was involved in that, even coaching the pitcher in a youth league. Domingos, who passed away in 2003, was a mason, and some of his work is still at Cishek's grandmother's house.
"[My grandfather] was huge into soccer," Cishek said. "In Portugal, soccer is the No. 1 sport. He was just an awesome guy, very hard worker. My whole family learned their work ethic from him, and it transitioned to my mother. They worked their fingers to the bone. I've always appreciated that part, and my grandmother and grandfather taught us a lot about working hard, saving your money and making sure you're doing the right thing. They established that to us kids when I was young. He's a special guy. We miss him. It's fun to be able to have that on my glove." (Muskat - mlb.com - 6/17/2018)
June 2007: The Marlins chose Steve in the 5th round, out of Carson-Newman University in Knoxville, Tennessee.
January 17, 2014: Cishek and the Marlins agreed on a $3.8 million contract for 2014, avoiding arbitration.
January 3, 2015: Steve and the Marlins again avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $6.7 million contract for 2015.
July 24, 2015: The Cardinals sent Kyle Barraclough to the Marlins, acquiring Cishek.
December 2, 2015: Cishek elected free agency.
December 12, 2015: Steve signed with the Mariners, a two-year, guaranteed $10 million contract.
July 28, 2017: The Rays sent Erasmo Ramirez to the Mariners, receiving Cishek in return.
November 2, 2017: Steve elected free agency.
- December 14, 2017: Cishek signed a two-year contract with the Cubs, worth $12-$14 million.
- Oct 31, 2019: Steve chose free agency.