Preps Talk

Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

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Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

How Rick Hahn became the general manager of the Chicago White Sox is one of the most unexpected stories youll ever hear about in baseball.

Why?

Because once upon a time, Jerry Reinsdorf didnt even want to hire him.

When I walked into his office, he was facing the other way, Hahn recalls about his very first meeting with the White Sox chairman in 1996. Using some direct and mildly colorful language, he told me that I was wasting his time, I was wasting my time. Ive got all this education, and why do I want to work as a general manager? He said, Just go do something real with your life. I was able to sort of calm him down after I got over the fact that Jerry Reinsdorf is kind of cursing me out here, which is kind of weird.

Hahn, who had graduated from the University of Michigan, and then later Harvard Law School, was getting his M.B.A. from Northwestern at the time. With all of that education, it didnt take much for Hahn to get the hint. Reinsdorf didnt want him, baseball seemingly had no place for him -- a harsh dose of reality that was only strengthened by a message that Hahn received a few weeks later.

My real name is Frederick, Hahn explains. At the time, my resume at the top said Frederick. In the mail I get a handwritten letter from Jerry that says, Dear Fred.

Not a good start.

Hahn continued, reciting Reinsdorfs letter from memory:

I've thought long and hard about our meeting and I won't help you ruin your life. Please lie down before you come to your senses. After I got over the stunned element of that, I saw at the bottom he said, However, if you want to learn about scouting, my offer to let you sit with some of our scouts still stands while you hold down a real job.

Hahn recalls this letter so vividly, because its actually framed above his desk at home. It also won him 25 at Northwestern -- in a contest for the best rejection letter.

That was the first money I ever made in baseball, Hahn says laughing.

Getting the opportunity to work with scouts slightly opened the door for Hahn. However, he would need plenty of inner strength to realize his dream, because there were others who kept slamming the door shut...like Kenny Williams.

Im thinking back to the four or five times that he came to me trying to convince me to hire him, and I told him he was out of his mind, Williams said. What are you doing? You are a Harvard grad, you have a law degree. Why do you want to be in baseball? Get out of my office. Get out of my suite. I kicked him out about four times and he kept coming back. And here he is today.

Guts, moxie, persistence, drive. They dont teach that in school. You either have it or you dont. As the White Sox eventually found out, Hahn had all of it.

Plus brains.

Williams calls Hahn one of the smartest people I know, and besides Reinsdorf is simply the best negotiatior Ive ever been around.

It goes with a wicked sense of humor, which was revealed when I asked Hahn how he and Williams differ from each other.

Well, hes taller. Some would argue not quite as handsome, says Hahn, delivering the line as if he was a comedian at Second City.

Then he gets serious.

In terms of style, Williams may wear his emotions on his sleeve a little more than I do, but well see over time if I sort of develop into that.

Being a major league general manager is no picnic. Its probably the most stressful job in the sport. You control what players you put on the team, but once they take the field, its over. They control your fate. All you can do is watch helplessly from your seat.

For 12 years, this ate away at Williams.

It wears you down, Williams says. At the end of the season, admittedly I was spent.

As his assistant general manager for those same 12 years, Hahn had an up-close view of Williams misery and mood swings. Is he concerned the same thing might happen to him?

A little bit, Hahn admits. Ive had friends, guys Ive been close with, been assistant GMs move up the ladder to the GM seat, and quite frankly Ive seen some of them change a little bit. Im guessing due to the added stress and responsibility and time. Im hopefully going to be aware of that.

"Ive got at least a good support network around, my family and friends who will hopefully keep me focused and respond appropriately. Its a risk, but its part of the job, and if you cant take some risks, its hard to do great things.

Last off-season, Williams uttered a word that no baseball fan wants to hear: rebuild. Even though in reality the White Sox did nothing close to an actual teardown, the perception of that single word lingered with the franchise for months.

Hahn is no dummy. Asked if the White Sox will be in a similar situation this winter, he gave a much different answer.

No. Our intent is to win in 2013, Hahn replies. We might make some moves that solidify our chance to win in the future, that solidifies our farm system, but the goal remains to first be in position to win multiple championships, and secondly, hopefully that first one will be in 2013.

Hahn is thinking big, and why not? When he walked into Reinsdorfs office 16 years ago, he was dreaming big, too.

He could have cashed in as a lawyer or a businessman, but he would have been bankrupt on the inside. He could have taken an easier road like many of his other Harvard and Northwestern classmates, but saw a future at 35th and Shields and went after it.

Now hes the White Sox general manager, the 12th in franchise history. Who wouldve believed it?

Hahn did. All along.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.