White Sox

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — No player has impacted the Double-A Birmingham Barons the way Michael Kopech has since … Michael Jordan?

That’s the belief of long-time Barons play-by-play man Curt Bloom, who said Kopech has garnered more attention than almost every player he’s covered during 26 seasons in the booth.

Bloom acknowledges that nobody will ever surpass Air Jordan’s 127 games with the Barons in 1994. But the advent of social media has made Kopech an extremely popular attraction this season. Whenever he takes the mound, the team’s social media accounts see a significant increase in page views, engagement and impressions.

“Jordan-esque,” Bloom said. “Nothing will beat Jordan. LeBron could come down. But this reminds me of it. It triggers it. A jolt.

“Nothing stirred like this guy has and I do say, and I think Kopech will tell you the same thing, a big chunk of the reason is we have social media. We didn’t have that for Jordan. We did not have that for Aaron Rowand. There’s always a ying for a yang.

“That being said, it’s still gone beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

It’s unavoidable to miss the Barons’ remembrance of Jordan’s season when he reportedly paid $350,000 to buy the club a luxury bus “The Jordan Cruiser and the Barons set records for attendance. The team drew 467,867 at their old stadium, Hoover Met, and Southern League attendance was more than 2.5 million.

Jordan’s image wearing a Barons No. 45 jersey can be found throughout Regions Field, including a massive banner near the home-plate entrance.

Kopech has been a focal point for White Sox fans since he was acquired in December.

Whether it’s his 100-mph fastball, his lofty prospect status or simply the fact he came over in the Chris Sale deal, eye balls have been drawn to Kopech all season. The right-hander has only increased the awareness with his steady presence on social media, including giving away game-used items to fans.

Throw in his recent dominance on the mound — Kopech has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in his last 41 innings — and the hysteria is real.

The Barons determined early on this season that they would follow in the steps of several major league clubs and anoint the day he pitched at home Kopech Day. The White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins have all recently done the same for Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jose Fernandez.

Kopech has only lived up to the hype.

“He’s answering the bell,” Bloom said. “There’s definitely awareness in the city, in our followers, the Twitter universe.

“My daughter Chloe who has no idea about baseball, she asks me, ‘Is Kopech pitching?’

"That’s what has been created.”

Yoan Moncada is kind of on fire, hits a leadoff homer for the second straight game

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada is kind of on fire, hits a leadoff homer for the second straight game

Yoan Moncada is some kind of dialed in.

For the second time in as many days, Moncada smacked a leadoff home run to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead.

Wednesday, he did it in the bottom of the first inning against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners, taking the first pitch out of the yard. Thursday, he waited until pitch No. 2 to go deep of Jakob Junis and put the South Siders on top of the Kansas City Royals in the top of the first.

Moncada came into Thursday night's series-opener slashing .333/.421/.848 over his previous nine games. In his last 10, including Thursday, he now has nine extra-base hits, five home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored. This latest long ball moved him into a tie with Jose Abreu for the team lead, with six on the campaign.

So maybe Robinson Cano's assessment of Moncada as a potential superstar of the future might be on point.

Dane Dunning the first highly ranked White Sox prospect to move up in system this season, heading to Double-A Birmingham

Dane Dunning the first highly ranked White Sox prospect to move up in system this season, heading to Double-A Birmingham

After four dominant outings with the Winston-Salem Dash, Dane Dunning is on the rise in the White Sox farm system.

The minor league baseball season isn't even a month old yet, but Dunning got his first promotion of the season Thursday, heading from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham, becoming the first of the White Sox highly ranked prospects to get a promotion in 2018.

Dunning was stellar in his four starts with the Dash this month, striking out 31 guys and turning in a 2.59 ERA in 24.1 innings. It was a strong follow up to the 22 starts he made there last season, when he had a 3.51 ERA and finished with 135 strikeouts.

Dunning is the lone pitcher acquired in the Adam Eaton trade with the Washington Nationals not on the White Sox big league roster, with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez currently part of the major league rotation.

Dunning is currently ranked as the organization's No. 6 prospect and the No. 92 prospect in baseball. With this being a developmental season for the White Sox as the rebuild moves toward the day when the team is planned to be an annual contender, expect a lot more announcements like this one as the summer rolls on.