White Sox

Bucs sign paralyzed player, tell inspirational story

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Bucs sign paralyzed player, tell inspirational story

Despite clashing opinions about the draft or team differences throughout the NFL, one story can warm everyone's heart. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed a paralyzed player; a player who is a symbol of strength and dedication, a perfect example of what it means to never give up and always shoot for your dreams.

Eric LeGrand was a junior at Rutgers University, and Oct. 16, 2010 was just supposed to be another game day. The 6-foot-2 defensive tackle took the field against the Army Black Knights, not knowing that would be the last time he'd run onto New Meadowlands Stadium.

LeGrand suffered a severe spinal injury in an on-field collision and laid helplessly for several minutes before being brought to the Hackensack University Medical Center. The only thing he could move was his head.

At the hospital, his mother was informed her son was paralyzed from the neck down. No one on the medical staff thought he'd be able to survive without the use of a ventilator.

They were wrong.

Five weeks later, LeGrand began breathing on his own. Quickly after, he could stand up with the assistance of a metal frame.

Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is now coaching for the Bucs. When draft time came around, he couldn't help but think of LeGrand and how this would have been his draft class. So, he decided to bring his former DT on board.

"This small gesture is the least we could do to recognize his character, spirit, and perseverance. The way Eric lives his life epitomizes what we are looking for in Buccaneer Men."

After visiting the New York Jets training camp last season, linebacker Bart Scott was truly moved by LeGrand's spirit and sees his addition to the Bucs as being beneficial to not only Tampa Bay, but to the entire league.

"He's been so strong through the process and life deals with certain things, and it's all about how we choose to deal with it. I think that he's embraced it and he took the challenge on. I think he should be an inspiration to a lot of people."

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Remember That Guy: Mike Caruso

Mike Caruso was the White Sox starting shortstop the year he turned 21, but didn’t play a game beyond age 25.

It all happened so fast. Remember that guy?

Caruso was born May 27, 1977, in Queens, New York. He shares a birthday with both Frank Thomas (1968) and Yoan Moncada (1995). He was drafted in 1996 by the Giants in the 2nd round (42nd overall); Jimmy Rollins was taken 46th and Josh Paul 47th. Caruso, like Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, attended Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which later in 2018 was the scene of a tragic shooting that shook the nation.

Caruso made his pro debut in 1996 with Bellingham (Low-A Northwest League), and hit .292 with 24 stolen bases in 73 games. He started out well in High-A San Jose in 1997, hitting .333 with 11 triples and 11 stolen bases (despite 16 times caught stealing) in 108 games before a trade sent him to Chicago.

On July 31, 1997, Caruso along with outfielder Brian Manning and pitchers Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo & Ken Vining were sent to the White Sox in exchange for pitchers Wilson Álvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernández in what is referred to in Chicago as the “White Flag” trade. Through games on July 31, the White Sox were 53-53, seemingly in striking distance in third place, a half-game back of the second-place Brewers and three games back of the first-place Indians. With a new superstar outfielder in Albert Belle, there were high expectations for the 1997 Sox. South Side fans were frustrated.

Caruso slumped through the end of 1997, but ended up making the big league roster for opening day 1998. Caruso debuted for the White Sox on March 31, 1998 as the opening day shortstop at age 20, replacing Ozzie Guillen who signed with the Orioles. He went 1 for 5 with a single off the Rangers’ Bobby Witt. The first home run came April 15 in Baltimore off former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, but power wasn’t his game. Regardless, he had a very solid rookie year, hitting .306/.331/.390 with 5 home runs, 55 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Caruso’s .306 average was the highest by a White Sox rookie (minimum 500 at-bats) since Minnie Miñoso in 1951 and remains one of only seven White Sox rookie seasons of .300 and 500 at-bats. José Abreu is the only one to do it since. Caruso celebrated his 21st birthday with a 4-hit game on May 27 – he’s the only White Sox player to collect four hits on his birthday since Mike Kreevich on June 10, 1937. It was the first of his four 4-hit games in 1998.

In addition to that, the young shortstop led the AL in at-bats per strikeout (13.8). Caruso posted a 14-game hitting streak in May-June, and hit a scorching .365 in June. Caruso also topped the American League in 1998 with 20 bunt hits, though he also led the Majors with 35 errors in the field. Despite the miscues in the field, he still placed third in the AL in Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Ben Grieve & Rays hurler Rolando Arrojo and ahead of El Duque Hernández & Magglio Ordóñez.

In 1999, Caruso hit an underwhelming .250/.280/.297 with 12 stolen bases (but 14 times caught). Again he was the toughest qualified batter to strike out (14.7 AB/K) but when he wasn’t striking out he wasn’t doing much, collecting only 17 extra-base hits in 529 at-bats, and walking only 20 times. Caruso slashed his errors from 35 to 24 but his performance was still far from ideal. Caruso’s biggest moment of the season was June 13 at Wrigley Field, where he hit a 2-run homer off the Cubs’ Rick Aguilera in the top of the 8th inning to give the White Sox a 6-4 lead which they held.

In January 2000, the White Sox acquired José Valentín from the Brewers, and the White Sox at first attempted to give Caruso some reps at second base to stick in the big leagues. The thought at the time was that Caruso was still young (he was, still not yet 23), and could figure things out, but he ended up spending the season at Charlotte (AAA). And he never did figure it out, hitting .246/.301/.314 with no home runs at triple-A in 2000. Caruso was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in December, but failed his physical due to a bad back and was ordered back to the White Sox, who released him.

Caruso signed with Devil Rays in February 2001 and hit .292/.340/.364 for Durham (AAA), but still couldn’t make it back to the Majors for a 62-100 Tampa Bay team. In December, Caruso signed with the Reds and was selected off waivers by the Royals at the end of April. Mike played what would end up his final 12 Major League games for the Royals in 2002, going 2 for 20 at the dish.

Caruso popped up in 2004 for the Long Island Ducks (independent Atlantic League), and again in 2007 through 2009 for a few other independent teams, including a 25-game stint for the Joliet Jackhammers in 2008.

Mike Caruso’s Major League career lasted all of 281 games for the White Sox and Royals. He hit .274 with 294 hits, 7 home runs, 90 RBI and 34 stolen bases. He replaced a White Sox legend at a key position and for a minute looked like he’d be a star. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But 1998 was a fun ride.

You remember Mike Caruso.

NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad shows shades of Marian Hossa in Game 2 win

NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad shows shades of Marian Hossa in Game 2 win

 

Game 2: Blackhawks at Blues (April 10)

Result: Blackhawks win 6-2 (Series tied 1-1)

Three Stars:

1st Star: Brandon Saad (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +3)

2nd Star: Olli Maatta (3 A, +2, 1 SOG, 1 H)

3rd Star: Jonathan Toews (1 G, 1 A, +3, 8-14 FO)

Brandon Saad showed shades of his 2014-15 self that was often compared to a young Marian Hossa. He netted two goals, got the primary assist to tie the game in the 2nd, and was a force at both ends recording four shots and a +3 rating. Olli Maatta provided some unexpected offense, chipping in with three assists including the primary helper on the eventual game-winner. The Captain stepped up when needed as well. Toews got the Hawks on the board to tie things in the second, and Chicago never looked back from there.

Scoring Summary:

First Period

-   6:59 Alexander Steen (O. Sundqvist, J. Kyrou) 1-0 

Second Period

-   1:19 Jonathan Toews (B. Saad, A. DeBrincat) 1-1

- 1:46 Brandon Saad (J. Toews, A. Boqvist) 2-1

- 5:04 Alex Nylander (O. Maatta, C. Murphy) 3-1

- 7:01 Drake Caggiula (O. Maatta) 4-1

- 15:03 Kirby Dach (Unassisted) 5-1

- 16:52 Vince Dunn (J. Faulk, S. Blais) 5-2

- 17:32 Brandon Saad (O. Maatta, A. DeBrincat) 6-2

Third Period

- No Scoring

Box Score:

Shots on Goal:

-   Chicago: 24

-   St. Louis: 22

The Blackhawks found a nice combination of depth contributions and stars stepping up. Established veterans like Toews and Saad did the heavy lifting early, then the depth and youth put the game to bed with a strong finish to the second period. With the first line through the fourth line all chipping in, the Hawks might be tough to beat if they are able to keep up that formula.

Goalies:

-   Corey Crawford: 20/22 (.909 SV%)

-   Jordan Binnington: 18/24 (.750 SV%)

Corey Crawford looked like the consistent, two-time Cup winner the Hawks need in net to win a series over St. Louis. After surrendering an early goal, Crawford was lights out despite an early push from the home team to try and put away the Hawks quickly. Once Crawford settled down, so did the visitors. While Binnington clearly didn’t have his best night, he was also a victim of some bad luck surrendering a pair of goals due to some unfortunate bounces. Much like Crawford in Game 1, Binnington didn’t get too much help in front of him.

Power Play:

-   Chicago: 0-1

-   St. Louis 0-0

After five combined penalties in Game 1, the referees swallowed their whistles and let the boys play. With just one power play in two games, there is no doubt Jeremy Colliton would like to see his team get a few more chances on the man advantage. On the other hand, the Hawks showed how important staying out of the box is for their defense and for their goaltender, especially against a power play unit as potent as the Blues’.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

-   Kirby Dach (Goal)

-   Drake Caggiula (Goal)

-   Alex Nylander (Goal)

After strong finishes to the regular season, Dach and Nylander were held in check in Game 1. That changed in a big way in Game 2. Both picked up their first career playoff goals; Nylander netting the eventual game-winner and Dach icing the game with a greasy goal in front of the net. Caggiula played his role well too, being a pest in front of the net, which led to his tally. The Hawks checked all the boxes they needed to pick up a win in Game 2. Now the series swings back to the Madhouse on Madison where the home crowd will undoubtedly be rocking. Blackhawks fans will experience their first home playoff game since April 2017.