White Sox

Bolingbrook's Ivlow, Bailey look to repeat

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Bolingbrook's Ivlow, Bailey look to repeat

What was the secret to Bolingbrook's sprint to the Class 8A championship? Aaron Bailey? Overall team quickness? Superior depth? More good players than anyone else? Experienced coaching staff? Luck?

None of the above.

Coach John Ivlow credits his team's success to...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

"Our philosophy is to keep it simple," he said. "We don't buy into supplement stuff. Our team meal is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Before the state championship game, we made them in the hallway at Urbana High School. That's our pre-game thing.

"We also push whole milk and granola bars. Our unofficial philosophy is: You can't win with fat guys. Our kids are stronger and quicker. Quickness comes from strength. Our kids lift weights. We always have quickness in our favor. We want our kids playing and reacting, not thinking."

Coming off a 5-5 season, Bolingbrook wasn't rated among the top 25 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason. "I wouldn't have rated us, either. But if you did your homework, you would have seen that we had 18 starters back from a playoff team. I always look at teams that have a lot of returning starters. They are the dangerous ones, the ones to look out for," Ivlow said.

So what about next season? No one will overlook Bolingbrook in 2012, not with Bailey and seven other offensive starters returning.

"Next year we will be better offensively," Ivlow said. "And we had a freshman lineman on the varsity, James Jacobsen, a 6-foot-1, 300-pounder, who will be as good as (Illinois-bound) Robert Bain. He is a mauler like Bain. He has great potential."

Bailey is excited, too. One of the leading prospects in the class of 2013, he hopes to come back for his final season as a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who bench-presses 300 pounds, squats 300 to 400 and shows marked improvement in his passing skills after working out in the off-season with quarterback guru Jeff Christensen. It is a scary proposition.

"I want to get bigger, faster and stronger. I can be a lot better," Bailey said. "I want to be a quarterback in college or a receiver, not a running back or defensive back. If a team needs a quarterback, I'll be a quarterback. But I'll be a receiver if they want one."

In the meantime, he plans to take a month off "to get my body back together." Then he will join the baseball team. But he also will devise a plan to provide time for football workouts.

"There is no pressure to repeat," Bailey said. "We're not trying to impress anyone. We just want to play our game and don't worry about what others say. We have to stay humble and not let (the state title) get to our head, not worry about the hoopla.

"I trust in God. All things are possible. This season wasn't a surprise. We had a lot of chemistry going in. We were dedicated in the weight room. We knew it was going to be a special season. There was something special about this team. Everyone wanted to win. We were tired of going to the playoff and being satisfied with winning a game or two."

Ivlow's job is easier when it comes to coaching Bailey. "You don't coach Bailey. You put him in a system that he will succeed in. He is a runner who can throw. He is a better thrower than people give him credit for. But the option is the first thing that comes to mind," Ivlow said.

"We just find ways to get him free. We have five or six different options. Sooner or later, it will break, like a chess game. Right now, 70 percent of the schools that are recruiting him want him as an athlete. The other 30 percent want him as a quarterback. What would I do? I'd put him at quarterback running my show in some type of option offense, a shotgun like Northwestern runs."

Ivlow, 41, prides himself as an offense-minded football coach. He learned from his father, who coached at Plainfield for 30 years. He played in the NFL for three years -- he was a fullback on the 1993 Chicago Bears and earned a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers -- and credits his knowledge of the game to former East Leyden product Mike Shanahan, who coached him at San Francisco and Denver.

"In the NFL, you have tests," he said. "You sit in countless hours of meetings. They quiz you on every position, how to block every front. We have a lot of knowledge here. We're not cocky; we're confident. People make things too hard. We stress simplicity. Our motto is: 'Less is more.' We don't have to run the West Coast offense. Our job is to put kids in position to make plays."

A Plainfield graduate of 1988, Ivlow played football at Northwestern for two years, then played for three years at Colorado State. After his NFL career ended, he took five years off. He didn't even watch a game. Looking for a job, he became a policeman. That was 15 years ago.

Slowly but surely, he began to get back into football. He attended Bolingbrook practices. Coach Phil Acton, who was closing out a successful 24-year career, added him to his staff. After one year, Acton retired and Ivlow was hired to succeed him. Nobody was more surprised than Ivlow.

"I was thrown to the wolves," he said. "A lot of people turned the job down rather than take a pay cut. I was surprised to get the job...no experience, only one year on the staff."

But he got a lot of help from staff holdovers, including defensive coordinator Bob Corra, offensive line coach Joe Murnick, defensive line coach Greg Pluth and offensive coordinator Matt Monken. All of them have been with Ivlow since 2002. Former Bolingbrook, Michigan and NFL player Todd Howard has coached the defensive backs for the last five years.

Ten years ago, about the time he was taking over Acton's program, Ivlow became the school resource officer at Bolingbrook High School. He runs a police station within the school. He is one of two officers on duty. Since the Columbine tragedy in Colorado, every high school in the country has at least one policeman in the hallway at all times.

Like Bailey and his teammates, Ivlow and his assistant coaches are still reliving the joys of winning a state championship...before they begin preparing to win another one.

"People wonder how we accumulated all of that quickness on one team," Ivlow said. "They don't get it. There are only a few ways to get fast. You're either born with it or you learn to improve your stride length or your consistency. No matter what, you have to spend a lot of time getting stronger. More than any other exercise, you have to improve your leg strength. You have to pound the iron."

And eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Interview with Hall of Famer Harold Baines

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NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox Talk Podcast: Interview with Hall of Famer Harold Baines

Chuck Garfien sits down with new Hall of Famer Harold Baines.

First, Chuck, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka share their memories of watching Baines play with the White Sox (1:40). Then, Baines explains why he's always been so soft-spoken (8:45), how he was able to play 22 seasons in the majors (13:00), why he's never spoken to GM Larry Himes for trading him to Texas (15:30), the apology he received from President George W. Bush (16:30), what he thinks about the critics who don't think he should be in the Hall of Fame (18:25), a replay of Baines emotional interview with Chuck about his dad (20:50) and more.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson discusses inspiring a younger generation of black baseball players, bat flipping and much more on Pull Up Podcast with CJ McCollum

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USA TODAY

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson discusses inspiring a younger generation of black baseball players, bat flipping and much more on Pull Up Podcast with CJ McCollum

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson appeared on Thursday's episode of the Pull Up Podcast hosted by Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and ESPN's Jordan Schultz to discuss many things including his MLB career, the charity work he does in the Chicago community and the need more expression and entertainment (overall) in baseball.

McCollum asked Anderson if the sport of baseball has evolved and what he would do to further these developments, based on the idea that the sport has a stigma of being boring, particularly within inner-city and/or largely black communities. Anderson stated, "They should allow players to have more fun.....just allow players to be themselves." 

Anderson discussed how being the only black player on the White Sox—the team that represents the South Side of Chicago—is extremely important to him and how great the White Sox organization has been at giving him every opportunity to be himself and "be comfortable". He expanded on how much he loves MLB life and how he wants to be able to pass on that love for the game to younger generations, especially the youth of the South Side of Chicago.

"I enjoy it [the responsibility of being the lone black player on the White Sox].....a lot of those kids in they area [the South Side], they kinda remind me of myself."

Schultz brought up the criticism of Anderson's bat flipping, asking him why it was so important for him to show that he was enjoying himself, at the expense of breaking one of baseball's "unwritten rules".

Being of a younger generation, Anderson lamented that it was indeed a new day in baseball and doubled down in saying that the simple aspect of having fun needs to be encouraged even more in the sport. 

"You're playing a game that you're failing most of the time and the times that you do succeed they don't want you to enjoy those moments. For me man, y'know, I think that's just a lot of pain showing.....from struggling, that's just that emotion that's coming out man. You know when you finally get to a point where you feel like you breaking through.....those moments that I want to remember and I want people around me to remember. That’s why I play the way that I do.”

Anderson is indeed having the best season of his career so far, with a slash line of .317/.342/.491 entering Friday morning. He is also nine home runs away from matching his season-high of 20 with over the half the season left to go.

With even more of a platform amid his career-year, Anderson has continued his crusade to make baseball fun again and doesn’t plan on changing up the way he plays the game anytime soon.


 

As touched on earlier in this post, Anderson wants to serve as a role model while also showing the youth that it is OK to be yourself as a Major League Baseball player.

In all the camps and baseball clinics that Anderon hosts, he always makes sure to answer every question about his unique experience in the MLB because he understands the value of kids getting to see someone who looks like them succeeding, even more so in a sport where the number black players sits at a mere 7.7% of the entire league

“Everything [is] not always good [for kids in inner-city communities], so I think that understanding that and kinda being a role model and motivating and inspiring those kids that look like me and I look like them, I think it's easier for those kids to look up to me. So that's why I go out and play hard and....enjoy the moment and do those crazy things on the field.....because that's what those kids like."

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