White Sox

Ozzie-Kenny 2011: Summer of Love starts now

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Ozzie-Kenny 2011: Summer of Love starts now

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
8:06 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

In direct contrast to the stormy 2010 season that both men now admittedly regret, Fridays State of the Sox session from Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams could be described as nothing short of a lovefest.

The frank and honest session opened to a rousing ovation, after Williams announced that just minutes earlier he had told Guillen that the club was picking up the managers option for 2012, keeping the White Soxs third-winningest manager (career record: 600-535) in town for at least two more years.

Hopefully I manage here for the rest of my career, Guillen said, recounting that when he called his wife, Ibis, with the news, she started crying. Its what Ive always wanted.

Williams, after cracking a joke about whether Ibis was crying tears of joy or sadness, tossed out a tantalizing bon mot.

Providing we can get back to basics and focus, Williams said, I hope to extend Ozzie for the rest of his and my career.

After the seminar, Williams expounded on Guillens future in Chicago.

We have to sit down and we all have to talk about it, he said. What wed like to ultimately do is make sure were all on the same page, traveling down the same course and some of the other, peripheral things are no longer factors. Ive got confidence in every one of these coaches, but this was the first order of business. Now we have to take care of the next set of business winning.

Williams insisted that while he feels his tombstone will read, just one more move to make, and that his roster is never set, for the time being hes content with the 2011 White Sox.

I kind of like where we are, he said. I don't want to subtract from the team. Any deal will have to come from our depth in the minors.

The closest the seminar came to teeth-grinding came after a fan asked about the Twins, specifically the cowering the White Sox do at the hands of Minnesota. As Williams bit his tongue the triumphs of the Twins are more vexing than any to him Guillen responded with characteristic frankness.

While sympathetic to the fan, he said the Jim Thome game-winning home run off Matt Thornton and the Sunday, fall-from-ahead, getaway loss to end that first series after the All-Star break were the two toughest losses of the season, Guillen said his job was harder, because he had to fly to Kansas City after that game with his team.

The plane was silent, Guillen said, noting that the postgame celebration from Minnesota really irritated him and stuck with him all season long. Those two games crushed the ballclub.

As the session wore on, the rapport between Guillen and Williams got more and more relaxed as well. Near its end, Guillen recounted one of his two crazy moves in 2010, and Williams interrupted you made more than two crazy moves.

Other highlights from the State of the Sox seminar:

Jarred by the sight of a half-empty room, someone in the crowd said that it was because fans instead chose to attend Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko autograph sessions. Guillen: I dont blame them."When the first fan question involved the White Sox offense and involved calling ex-White Sox player Nick Swisher a tool, Guillen leaned over to get explanation of the term from Williams, then broke into a smile.Both men stood steadfastly behind mercurial outfielder Carlos Quentin. Guillen repeated his comments to Spanish media on Thursday, that Quentin is the key to the White Sox. Williams called Quentin a Sportscenter guy, explaining that he didnt want to trade Quentin and then have to be haunted by nightly highlights of him playing well for another team.Guillen offered a bizarre explanation of why hes always changing his cell phone number, to which Williams retorted, Como se dice too much information? Soon thereafter, the GM led a rousing serenade of Happy Birthday in honor of Guillens 47th birthday, celebrated on Thursday.Guillen on shortstop Alexei Ramirezs slow starts: When youre from Cuba, 60 degrees is like negative-2. The jefe added that he felt Ramirez was the best shortstop in the American League, and that Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham will be the best double-play combination in baseball.Andruw Jones was on Williams radar, but the team (finally) ran out of money.Williams was excited to recount a mammoth home run hit in Atlanta by Adam Dunn, but Guillen earned some laughs by telling his boss, I dont care how far he hits oneI want Dunn to hit 50 short homers. Also from Ozzie: One thing people overlook about Dunn is he hits to the opposite field hes going to be fun to watch."When a fan started a question with Manny Ramirez, Williams immediately blurted, sorry! to great laughter and applause. Fan: apology accepted.Before giving him a chance to answer a question about the 2011 AL Central competition, Williams put the hammer down: Dont say anything that could go national.Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

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MiLB.com

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

Most minor league managers have graying sideburns, wrinkled skin and a birth date well before 1980.

They’ve been through the battles of baseball and life, placed in rural dugouts across the country to teach the younger generation how to play the game.

But in a town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the White Sox are bucking this trend with a fresh-faced millennial who one day could be sitting in a major league manager’s office with his name on it.

Justin Jirschele is the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox Class-A affiliate.  At 27 years old, he is the youngest manager in all of professional baseball.  

Jirschele (pronounced JIRSH-ah-lee) goes by “Jirsh” to those who know him and who play for him, which last season included top prospects like Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

When Jirschele played the game, he was a guy every team would have wanted.

Not for his speed: He never stole more than four bases in a season during his minor league career. Not for his power: He didn't hit a single home run in 622 career at-bats.

But because he treated every game like it could be his last.

“I never took a play off. I never took an at-bat off,” he said.

This was his mindset even in his very last minor league at-bat for the Birmingham Barons in 2015.

“I remember walking up and I said out loud to myself, ‘This is it. Do something.’ I’m getting the chills right now thinking about it.”

Jirschele knew his playing days were over. So did the White Sox. They signed him out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Nobody else wanted him. Over the next four seasons, he played for five White Sox minor league teams. The results on the field were overwhelmingly average.

Then one day, Nick Capra, then the White Sox Director of Player Development, came to Jirschele with an idea and an offer that would change his life.

“He asked, ‘Are you ready to start coaching yet?’ Jirschele recalled. ‘And I looked at him and went, ‘What do you mean?’”

The White Sox offered Jirschele a job to be the hitting coach for the Grand Falls Voyagers, the team’s rookie league affiliate.

“I was in shock. It was the end of May, the season was still young. I was at three different levels. I started at Winston-Salem, went to Charlotte and came back to Birmingham. It was a whirlwind. When he first said it, my first feeling was excitement. That kind of told me right there that it was the right time to do it.”

So Jirschele took the job.

He was 25 years old.

Then he went out and took that final minor league at-bat for Birmingham, which turned out to be a fitting conclusion to his playing career.  

“I think it was the second pitch, right down the middle and I was tardy, hit it off my fist, a dribbler to the shortstop and I bet you I ran as hard as I had in my entire life. It wasn’t that I was fast, but I was running as hard as I possibly could to first and I don’t think there even was a throw I hit it so soft, perfectly past the pitcher.  I just said to myself, that’s it right there.”

An infield dribbler for a base hit to close his playing career.

Coaching made sense for Jirschele. His father, Mike, is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Series in 2015. His older brother, Jeremy, is the head baseball coach back at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Pretty soon, the younger Jirschele would be leading a team of his own.  

In 2017, the White Sox gave him the managerial job with Kannapolis. Sure, some of his players would be around the same age, but the White Sox looked past the birth date on his driver’s license and recognized a person who was wise beyond his years.

“It was identified early on that he has the leadership qualities we look for in a manager regardless of his age,” said Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development. “He has good baseball knowledge, good communication skills, a willingness to learn and adapt, and carries out a consistent message. We feel lucky to have him and think he has a bright future ahead.”

Although the ages of the Intimidators players ranged from 19 to 25 years old, it didn’t matter that their manager was slighty older than them.

“Never once had an issue with the age thing,” Jirschele said about his players. “I think from Day 1 when I showed them the respect like I’m not going to be the guy that’s two years older than you hammering things down your throat, I’m going to have that respect and you’re going to show it back.”  

While the White Sox prospects spent the season developing their playing skills, Jirschele was honing his managing skills, which go beyond what happens on the field. A big part of the job is handling issues that arise off of it.  

“It’s a long grind season and there are so many things that are going to come up non-baseball related to where you might be in that clubhouse and you might feel alone,” Jirschele explained. “You might feel like you’re on an island all by yourself even if you’ve got three best friends that are going to stand up in your wedding one day, you might not feel comfortable talking to those guys about that.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it at 12:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night or midnight. I tell the guys you’ve got my phone number.  Call or text no matter what time if you need to talk.”

Following his thirst for managing knowledge, Jirschele often reaches out to his dad for late-night phone calls, rehashing the game that night. He’ll even text an opposing manager, like Patrick Anderson, a friend who has managed the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Class-A affiliate for the last four seasons.

“He’s a guy I could pick his brain about things," he said. "Once the series was over I’d send him a text and ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ At the end of the day we’re all in it together and first and foremost it’s all for these players and making them better each and every day and doing whatever we can to get them to the top. But at the same time we’re developing ourselves as well along the way.

“I’m sure I annoy a lot of people of asking questions but that’s how you learn. I was brought up that way.”

Jirschele’s impressions of some White Sox top prospects he managed last season:

Alec Hansen: “When he takes the ball, you feel like you have one of the best chances in the country to get a win that night in minor league baseball.  His stuff is just off the charts.”

Dane Dunning: “It would be the 8th inning, he wanted that complete game and he wouldn’t be too pleased with me coming out there to take him out, but you want that.  You want that out of a competitor on the mound every 5 days. He’s definitely a guy you want in the foxhole with you, no doubt.”

Micker Adolfo: “He has a special, special arm.  I don’t know if there’s a better one right now.”

Jake Burger: “Looking forward, the ceiling is unbelievably high for him. 100 percent no doubt in my mind, someday he will be a captain in the big leagues.”

Like many of his players, Jirschele left an impression with the White Sox in his first season as manager. He helped lead the Intimidators to their first playoff berth since 2009 and their first trip to the South Atlantic League championship since 2005.

Earlier this month, the White Sox named him their Minor League Coach of the Year.

“First and foremost, it means we had good players this year. It’s those guys between the lines,” he said. “As coaches, we can’t go out there and pitch. We were fortunate to have a great group of guys. We came up a little short (winning the championship), but we got there and it was fun.”

Once upon a time, Jirschele’s dream was to make it to the majors. That dream still exists.  Just now instead of having his own baseball card, he wants to get to the big leagues holding a lineup card.

“I think I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a goal, but at the same time I don’t worry about it. I know I’m 27 years old," he said. "I’m just fortunate to have the job I do right now with the White Sox. I go out and do my job every single day and the rest will just take care of itself.”