White Sox

Ozzieball's reward: A breakout win

451787.jpg

Ozzieball's reward: A breakout win

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 8:54 p.m Updated: 10:25 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.When a stray loss or two start to string together into a streak, most managers start to grip the managerial hot seat and start to snap back at even the simplest and kindest of questions.

For consummately chill Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen? Its a signal for story time.

Yesterday, I was talking to bench coach Joey Cora before the game started, saying, Man, I have to start doing hit-and-runs and stuff, Guillen said before Thursdays series finale vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. A good answer came back: Well, we have to get on base, first.

Guillen started a long dissertation on his smallball roots with that anecdote, with a conclusion drawn thusly: I grew up bunting. My baseball game is bunting. We win a lot of games bunting.

With 10 hitsthe clubs first double-digit parcel of safeties since April 8Ozzies smallball ways are likely to be discounted as a factor in the 9-2 trouncing. So the evidence of a first inning runthe first lead the Pale Hose have held in 51 inningsspurred by Juan Pierre bunting his way on (his first of two consecutive) and advancing to third on an overthrow is offered merely anecdotally.

JP did a great job getting on there and causing some havoc, said Carlos Quentin, after turning in a now-customary double, two RBI, HBP night. Getting that run in was big. It gave us a chance to put pressure on them.

Pierre himself, robbed of an inside-the-park grand slam by Sam Fuld in Chicago and victimized for extra bases by Matt Joyce in last nights game, was caught in a bit of a fib postgame. Asked whether he microscoped his at-bats (he bunted in his first two times up, twice for hits) intentionally because of the Tampas defensive prowess, he said, No.

Then, laughing, he changed his story: Well, a little bit. I made up my mind that there was a big guy on the mound, too, so I was like, Ill try to get some bunts down and try to create things.

For storyteller Guillen, it was the perfect end to his time in Tampa.

Thats the way we expect to play every day, to be honest with you, he said postgame. I dont want to be cocky or arrogant, but this team can play this way because of the way we built this club and the talent we have. Every time we take the field, we expect to play that way.

Translation: Snapping the slump, especially one that came on so stealthily and threatened to anesthetize the season if it went on much longer, was nothing short of enormous for the Chisox. But its something the club knew was just a matter of time.

We all knew it was a big game for us, Quentin said. No team wants to get swept, especially for it to happen two times in a row. Its something you dont want to happen at all. We have been playing hardWe just havent gotten results. Its unfortunate because thats what happens in this game. But its not for a lack of effort and well keep bringing that same effort level day in and day out.

Gavin Floyd pitched into traffic more than he needed to, but with seven Ks over six innings and another snappy bullpen effort (Will Ohman, Sergio Santos, Jeff Gray), smiles snuck their way back into the Chicago clubhouse.

Quentin maintained his beastly pace to start the season, cracking his major-league leading 11th double in the sixth to plate two. The two-bagger also set a White Sox record for April doubleswith nine games left in the month.

Quentin shrugged off any notion of April records, speaking with customary animatronic emotion postgame. Gavin Floyd, who immediately scoffed himself postgame for his series of two-out baserunners, provided the proper exaltation as the volume on the clubhouse joking and celebrating kept getting turned up:

Hallelujah!

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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

kopech.jpg
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.