White Sox

Todd Frazier can't catch 'epic' Giancarlo Stanton in Home Run Derby

Todd Frazier can't catch 'epic' Giancarlo Stanton in Home Run Derby

SAN DIEGO — Warming up in the indoor batting cage for Monday’s Home Run Derby final, Todd Frazier looked up at a television to see Giancarlo Stanton homering again and said, “Damn.”

In order to repeat as Derby champion, the White Sox third baseman knew he’d have to chase down an “epic” performance by the Miami Marlins outfielder at Petco Park.

Even though he finished with three more homers in 2016 than he did when he won a year earlier, Frazier couldn’t keep pace with Stanton and lost, 20-13, in the final round. Stanton — who hit two 497-foot blasts — hit a Home Run Derby record 61 home runs in three rounds Monday. Frazier finished with 42 overall after blasting 39 in Cincinnati last July.

“(Stanton) was hitting the moonshots,” Frazier said. “I felt like I was a high school hitter compared to him the way he was hitting 'em that far. It was impressive.”

On Friday, Frazier said he wanted to hit second whenever he could. A finalist for a third straight year, Frazier prefers to know what kind of total he needs to win a round. As the No. 2 seed in the eight-man field, Frazier would have hit second against everyone but top-seeded Mark Trumbo, whom Staton eliminated in the semifinals.

Frazier — whose 25 homers are the most ever by a White Sox third baseman at the All-Star break — elected to go second again and then watched as Stanton began another round of dominance.

After hitting 24 in the first round and 17 in the semifinals, Stanton started slow in the finals, hitting only six in the first 95 seconds. He hit nine in the next 1:39 and took a timeout before blasting six more in his final 46 seconds.

“There’s a TV in there and I was watching a little bit and just getting loose again and, ‘Here he goes again,’” Frazier said. “But they were epic home runs. He was hitting epic home runs. I was just trying to get to 440 (feet), and he was hitting almost 500. Fun to watch.”

Stanton also hit one homer in his bonus round to finish with 20. Of the 61 he finished with, five were at least 490 feet, with two topping out at 497.

“Sometimes it feels like there’s more pressure (going second),” said Charlie Frazier, Todd’s older brother and Derby pitcher. “But you want to see the number you need to beat, like the first two rounds where we didn’t have to go to the bonus.”

Frazier took the first of two timeouts after he hit three homers in the first 69 seconds of the final round. He blasted another seven in the next 1:27 and still trailed 20-10 when he took his final timeout. Frazier wound up with three more and didn’t earn a bonus round, which players received for hitting two homers of 440 feet or more.

But he was still pleased with the overall effort.

Frazier knew exactly what he needed in the semifinals against Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall, who hit 15 round-trippers. Midway through the round, Frazier hit four home runs in a row to reach 12 and called a timeout with 90 seconds left. A burst of three straight tied him with Duvall, and Frazier reached the final with a liner into the left-field corner with 20 seconds left.

He also began the night with a 13-12 victory over Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez in the first round.

“It was impressive,” Frazier said. “I said it was going to be one of the most epic home run battles, and it ended up going down nice.

“Twenty home runs is a lot.

“He was hitting some moonshots. I’m happy for him. He’s a good guy, and these things are great. They’re fun.”

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.