White Sox

Frankie O: At speed - Part 3

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Frankie O: At speed - Part 3

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

One constant when I travel is my inability to get a good nights sleep. As much fun as it is to go somewhere new, nighttime is the only drawback. Add this to the anxiety of having to do something that every person I know is going to watch and my morning caffeine is needed more than usual, if thats possible. People always ask if doing a junket is fun and my response is, of course, but my fun starts as soon as the review airs. Its like preparing for a major exam, taking it and waiting for grade. Ill never forget the first one and the mood in the room as it changed before everyone got their chance to interview Will Ferrell. The money shot. The reason for being there. If trained professionals are feeling the pressure I guess I should, too.

It was at this time that I wanted to vomit as I felt the enormity of the situation I was about to encounter. I felt like I was being taken to the chair as I was led to the room where he, Im sure, anxiously awaited my grand entrance. The room, and my head, was spinning as I was introduced and led to my seat across from the big fella.

My first reaction as he was sizing me up was, Holy Mackerel! Thats Wilf! (well it least it was something similar to that! But I couldnt help but give a gratuitous shout-out to my favorite seafood restaurant). As we waited to start, still quizzically looking at me, he asked, What are you doing here?

My response was that times were tough and I needed a second job and someone told me by doing this I would sometimes get to meet interesting people and enjoy an unlimited buffet in the green room. His laughter in response was all I needed to forget about everything going on around me and hopefully not embarrass myself (to judge, go to Harrycarays.com and click on to my Talladega Nights review). He helped me realize that all we were doing was having a conversation. That this conversation was with someone I have never met shouldnt matter, since its something I do every day, repeatedly at my other job. That thought process is the important part of slowing things down. In any job, thats always the key to doing it well. Admittedly, its still moving pretty fast, but Im almost to the point where I can think about breakfast, almost.

Riding to the stadium was like going to play a game. It was a little less boisterous than the rides to and from the movie as folks were getting their thoughts together, asking each other questions to make sure they had their facts straight. Of course that didnt stop a few of the guys from chiding me about the Eagles gag job the night before (who knew that would be a recurring theme? Ha-ha).

Once at the stadium, it was hurry up and wait, and wait and wait. This was no way to enjoy a Diet Dew high. Some of it was my own fault since I took an earlier shuttle than I needed to since there was no way I was going to be late and I figured at least the scenery would be better than inside my room. Theres something about a ballpark. Any ballpark. Im sure its seen better days, but you could have fooled me. Under a clear blue sky, while lacking the charisma of Wrigley, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum looked as inviting as any park Ive ever been in. I know its 8:30 a.m., but I wouldnt have objected to a beer and a dog if a game had started.

Anyway, I was hoping to find out what order we were going to do our interviews. While I was guessing I would get the big boys last -- little did I know how true that would be -- you never know. In a way, you just want to get it done, but there is something to doing a couple and getting adjusted before you do the one that really counts. Not that I have ever discounted any that I have ever done, but I know the realities of a two-and-a-half minute piece are that some of these will never see the light of day. Although this time with a companion piece on the effects of Moneyball in Chicago, if I could get more good sound, it could find its way on air.

Sure enough a little after 10 a.m., I got the call to get in line for Michael Lewis. It was time to meet my late-night travel companion! While I didnt ask how much time I had, I figured I would have more than enough (a long time ago, my TV sensei had given me the timeless advice -- get it? -- of asking questions until they told me to stop. That was when they had limited-size tapes, so I often heard, The tapes done," as I was still having a conversation. Oh well, I just keep throwing them against the wall until I get TV gold!

Now, with the new discs they use, my feeling is that I can squeeze in a little extra (or at least I try). The big stars are on a strictly measured time count, usually three minutes, while with, no offense, the others, it is usually between four and five. This can seem painfully long or very short.

With Lewis it flew by. I could have talked to him all day. With his eye for detail and the amount of research he did, Im sure he could have told me stories easily for that long. I thought it went great, although there was one curious note: When I explained to him that he was riding home with me from work every night while I listened to the audio version of the book, he asked, Did I read it, or was it an actor? Um, pretty sure it was you dude, it said read by author on the cover, and I can recognize your voice anywhere by now. Really, he replied. That was strange but I had no time to dwell.

After another half-hour, it was time for Chris Pratt and Scott Hatteberg. Again, for me, doubles are sometimes awkward, especially when you really want to talk to one more than another. Then there is the dreaded run-on, if they start a conversation between themselves in response to a question. Or say, youre being nice and the wrong guy takes all of your time!

For the movie INVICTUS, there was only one interview for us sports types, but it included Matt Damon. Depending on your point of view, the goodbad part was that it was a double with the man he portrayed in the movie, Francios Pienaar. Now Pienaar is interesting in his own right, but he was sitting next to MATT DAMON and I only have three minutes! Before I went in, I was warned, repeatedly, not to ask Pienaar a question or he would take up all of my time. Honestly? With him sitting this close, dont ask one? That felt rude.

My plan was open with a movie question to Damon, then time permitting, follow Damon with a funny baseball observation, then give Francios the leftovers. Well, when Damon gave a good, but quick answer and kind of looked over at Pienaar, I took the bait and asked him a question that would give me just enough time to sneak in my funny at the end. Everybodys happy, right?

WRONG!

Hes probably still talking, that tape-eater! It was no consolation that when I did ask Damon my question on the way out, that he laughed and broke out into that world-famous smile, in fact, it only made it worse. No such problems this time, as I had what felt like 10 minutes and was able to go back and forth, between them, and still had time for my funny at the end. Too bad its on the cutting room floor! Thats showbiz! Whatever! It was still fun to talk to them and at least Hatteberg made the second piece, which Im sure, if he knew, would be a big thrill!

The good part, for me, was that as soon as I was done with the guys, I was told to get in line for Jonah Hill. Cool. With just the big guns after that, I could be done by lunch, which looked outstanding by the way. The BeanePitt combo had been running a little behind, but, again, that was to be expected, and again, who cares as long as I get to talk to them? My time is their time, as long as I make my flight! And since I had moved that flight to a later time, that, hopefully, shouldnt be an issue.

Interestingly, in my preparation, I always seemed to have writers block for my approach with Jonah. Hes a funny guy, but hes a subtle funny. I wanted him to be funny. I needed him to be funny. Then I saw a clip of him on the internet where he talked about the pranks that Pitt had played on him on the set. One in particular was hilarious and I was telling people at the bar about it and it got a laugh every time. If I could get him to tell that story to me.

Sometimes in life, its probably better if you dont overthink stuff, or have a preconceived notion. As I was waiting after the Lewis interview in the lounge that they had created for us, I overheard several people talking about their Hill experience and lets just say it wasnt what they had hoped. No problem, Ive got a solid approach, he should work for me.

When it was my turn and I sat next to him it was startling to see how much weight he had lost. Wow. He didnt even look like the person who was in the movie. In fact, he lost half a person! I thought he looked like a slightly larger version of Toby McGuire. Thats a compliment. The production crew was having a slight problem with the audio, so we had a few minutes. This could be good, I thought. But with every one-word answer to my small-talk questions, I started to feel very awkward. So anything that did not happen, Ill take the blame.

Overweight, red-bow-tie wearing bartenders are an acquired taste. Actually as I looked back over the transcripts of what we said to each other, it didnt seem as bad as I had felt it was. In fact his description of the story of the movie was very eloquent and was used in the review.

Still, for me, I wanted some funny and just could not get any. Im reminded of the many stories over the years that folks have shared with me at the bar about random encounters that they have had with funny stars and to their dismay, they didnt find that person to be very funny. My response has always been that maybe the star wasnt having a very good day or maybe they should ratchet-down the expectations. No one is funny all of the time. Trust me, I know. So as I tried to get the story out of Jonah, and failed miserably, I just had to laugh. Not the good type of laugh mind you, but at least I got one from him and Ill always have that.

Besides, it was time to move on to my reason for being here, the person that everyone has asked me about before and since. No pressure right? For some reason I had a good feeling about this one. I had caught a couple of glimpses of Mr. Pitt as he made the rounds and he seemed very natural and at ease (why shouldnt he?).

Tune in next week to find out how that went. For now, Ill leave you with this: The next day, as I was sorting everything out and telling folks at the bar about my experiences, Jonah Hill was on Letterman and from all accounts, he absolutely killed. Especially with the story of a particular prank that Pitt had played on him while they were filming Moneyball.

Like I said, you have to laugh.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.