White Sox

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins to start pro career next week

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins to start pro career next week

ESPN suggested Zack Collins could be the first hitter from this month’s amateur baseball draft to reach the big leagues.

But the first-round pick has been given a few days to decompress before he begins his professional career with the White Sox. Collins spent Saturday morning in the clubhouse, took batting practice with some of his future teammates and threw out the first pitch less than a day after he officially signed with the White Sox. The university of Miami catcher — who received a $3,380,600 signing bonus — will first report to the team’s Glendale, Ariz. facility on July 2 and eventually will start at Single-A Winston-Salem.

“We’re probably going to give him a week or two to catch his breath a little bit,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “It’s been a long season for him. We’re probably going to send him to Arizona for a little bit and get his feet under him and then to Winston.”

Collins’ college career ended earlier this week when the Hurricanes were eliminated from the College World Series. He appeared in 62 games and hit .363/.544/.668 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Collins finished the season with 78 walks and 53 strikeouts.

The catcher brought his family with him to Chicago for the weekend and this week he’ll head to Wichita, KS, where he’s one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.  

“After that I’ll have a couple of days off and head out,” Collins said. “It’s definitely nice (to get a few days off). I pretty much caught every game this year for Miami so it’s nice to get my legs a little rest and get fresh and head out.”

Collins wants to stick at catcher and he thinks he can. But his approach, which ESPN said is the best of the draft, and bat could have Collins to the majors quickly. Of Collins, ESPN’s Keith Law said “he can really hit.”

Collins finished his collegiate career with 177 walks versus 164 strikeouts.

“Patience is key when you’re hitting, Collins said. “Swinging at the right pitches and put the barrel on it and the ball will fly, especially with these big-league balls. Take your walks and get on base and score runs to help the team.”

Zack Burdi, the team’s supplemental first-rounder, also is said to be a fast-mover and potentially could be the first pitcher drafted to reach the majors. Hostetler said the reason Collins and Burdi are ahead of others has as much to do with their mental approach as their skillset.

“They’re advanced from the standpoint not only physically, but mentally,” Hostetler said. “That’s probably the big thing if they can play here. These guys that play here on a nightly basis, they’re wired different between the ears. They have a different mentality about them and both of those kids as well as a couple of the other ones we drafted have that presently and don’t have to develop that. To think you can put it on a 21-year-old kid to pitch here in front of 40,000 a night, it’s a little tough to think about. But I do think they’d be capable of something like that.”

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

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.