White Sox

If White Sox didn't have faith in him, Ventura 'would already be gone'

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If White Sox didn't have faith in him, Ventura 'would already be gone'

DETROIT -- Robin Ventura ain’t quitting and the White Sox aren’t asking.

Shortly after ex-Cub Ryne Sandberg resigned as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday afternoon, Ventura was asked if he might ever do the same.

Noting he has no insight on the Sandberg/Phillies’ situation, Ventura said he has no plans to resign as White Sox manager because of his relationship with management. Were he to feel his status with the 32-40 White Sox were up in the air, Ventura said he wouldn’t hesitate to step down.

[MORE: Robin Ventura ready to roll with White Sox changes]

“I’m committed to getting this out of these guys,” Ventura said. “I believe in these guys. I’m not even speaking of his position or what is going on over there, but where I’m at and the people work with, again, if they didn’t have faith in me I’d already be gone.”

White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams joined the team at Comerica Park on Thursday, his first road trip of the season. Williams reiterated the team’s confidence in Ventura and hitting coach Todd Steverson, noting the White Sox are satisfied in the message and effort put in by the coaching staff. Williams said the issue lies with the players, though the club’s poor performance also has led the front office to reevaluate its own practice, too.

“We’ve faltered, that’s obvious,” Williams said. “And we’ve got our shortcomings. But it’s not with the coaching staff.

“With regards to Robin, listen, you only have so much control as a manager on your overall team play. He will be the first to admit they haven’t played, they haven’t followed the direction as much as he would have liked. But what we have to look at in management, and it falls no further than my desk, what we have to look at is have we given him the right pieces?

“If they are underperforming to this degree as a whole, then I would have to say right now, and I’ve told the Chairman this, no, at the end of the day, it falls on my desk. I hired the manager. I hired the general manager.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“I signed off on all the free agent contracts and the trades and everything else. I happened to think that Rick (Hahn) put together a hell of a club. And a lot of other people thought the same thing.

“But before I turn my attention or Rick turns his attention to Robin, we have looked at ourselves.”

Ventura is aware of the calls for his firing or resignation but doesn’t pay much attention. He knows the criticism that comes with his position and feels he’s well suited to handle it as well as the management of players through a difficult period.

“It’s easy when you’re winning,” Ventura said. “I think when it’s not going well you just have to have thick skin. There is a certain element to that that you have to have thick skin and come in every day to grind and try to get there best out of what’s here and continue that part of it. It’s tough. Some days those are the tough ones, but it’s the best thing to have is the thick skin.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A failed PED test. A 50-game suspension. A fight with a former teammate. A broken pitching hand.

It all blew up like that for Michael Kopech in one calendar year.

And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

“There have been points where I wanted to quit baseball. There have been points where I wanted to stop trying,” Kopech said Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

This was the breaking point that almost ended Kopech’s career before it truly began but would eventually change his life for the better once the storms passed.

“Everything felt like it was on me at once, and it was tough because I had just gotten through the suspension, worked my butt off all offseason, came back to spring training in the best shape I had ever been in, and then broke my hand the first day of spring,” Kopech explained. “More than anything, I was frustrated and knew I wasn’t making anything better for myself and I was ready to get out of there.”

How long was he in this mode of possibly quitting baseball?

“Probably a couple weeks.”

The PED suspension in 2015 was for the stimulant Oxilofrine, which has been found in supplements which Kopech says he didn’t knowingly take.

“We do have certifications that we’re supposed to follow. We’re supposed to make sure that everything we take or put in our bodies is certified, and I probably wasn’t as safe as I should have been on that. I do take responsibility on that, and I regret it. But it’s part of the past and I did learn from it, so I can’t be too upset about it now and dwell on the past.”

The fight wasn’t only with Kopech’s teammate. It was also with his roommate.  

“It was a good friend of mine I was trying to help out. Things went south and he took a couple swings at me and I took one swing back. It just happened to not be a very good punch,” Kopech said. “I’ve accepted that I messed up. He accepted it as well. I’m open about it because it’s in the past and I’ve learned from it. But I’m not too proud to say I made a mistake. Fortunately, he’s still with the Red Sox and doing well over there. I think it didn’t alter our careers negatively, but maybe we both matured quite a bit from it and somehow, someway altered it positively. He’s still one of my good buddies.”

To say that Kopech’s dream is to make the major leagues would be limiting. He has a strong desire not only to be great but to be one of the all-time greats.

You can’t always pinpoint where a person’s ambition comes from. Kopech thinks it was from his torturous year as a nomad, out of baseball with a broken hand and a broken soul.

“Everybody talks about that itch to get back to spring training. When you have that for 12 straight months, it just grows and grows and grows,” Kopech said. “There’s going to be adversity coming your way in baseball. Learning from the adversity off the field is one of the tougher things I’ve ever had to do. Having all that come at once forced me to learn from it. I probably was a little stubborn and hard-headed at first, but taking a year off baseball, all you have time to do is think, anyway. I put myself in much better positions, became a lot more mindful about the game, and I feel like it has a lot to do with who I am today.”

Partly what changed him, and frankly might have saved him, was learning how to meditate. It’s a practice he learned from Red Sox mental performance coach Justin Su’a soon after the fateful fight with his teammate.

“It put me in a mental state that I never experienced. It’s almost like a flow state when I pitch but a lot calmer, so I got hooked on meditating and it took me away from the negativity of all that,” Kopech said. “I realized that my mind is my most powerful tool. I got addicted to this feeling that came from me being a more mindful athlete rather than just a powerful athlete or an athlete that throws 100 miles per hour. It took me away from being this guy that’s one dimensional to the outside public and made me have a lot more self value than Michael Kopech the baseball player.”

Kopech meditates before every start. Where exactly?

“For the most part, I’ll go find a closet or empty room somewhere in the stadium where I can zone out,” he said. “But even if it’s close to the clubhouse and I hear a little chatter that’s fine because the type of meditating I do focuses a little on background noise and helps my mind get to the place where I need it to get.”

It’s become such a powerful tool, he believes it gives him a distinct advantage over the hitter when he's on the mound.

“It’s tapping into this part of your mind that most people can’t dive into, and what’s funny is pitching is like cheating to me. When I pitch, the first batter I see with the stadium full of people, I’m in that state. Most people have to work their whole lives to feel that type of dopamine rush. Whatever it is actually, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know the feeling and I get it instantly when I take the mound. For me, that’s why I love the game because it makes me feel alive.”

It's a purpose and passion that has been reborn. Living proof that Kopech's mind is maybe all that matters.