Cubs

2011 CSN Sports Awards a smashing success

2011 CSN Sports Awards a smashing success

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 1:10 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It was an annual Night to Remember in Chicago sports, for many, many reasons.

WATCH: Steve Dahl's intro to the CSN Sports Awards

At the Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards, benefitting the March of Dimes and presented by Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning at the Hilton Chicago Monday night, there was Bull of the Year Taj Gibson taking a moment to honor his grandfather who passed away two days ago.

I want to say I love you, Gibson said. Be with me in spirit.

Chicago Fire rookie goaltender Sean Johnsons mother made the trip from Georgia to see her son honored, and he bestowed one on her as well.

Shes been there for the 21 years of my life, by my side, Johnson said. So shes my Valentine tonight and I just want to say I love you.

Before a sellout crowd of 1,000, inspirational athlete of the year Jonathon Ruiz, consigned at age 11 to a wheelchair by spinal bifida but a gold medal winner at the inaugural Paralympics Youth Games in Australia last October, had the simplest yet most powerful of messages:

Never take anything in life, or life itself, for granted, Jonathon said.
WATCH: Jonathan Ruiz's emotional speech

Lifetime achievement award winner Ozzie Guillen marveled at the difficulties involved in playing every other sport except baseball, but brought Jonathan back on stage for a special commendation.

Jonathon, you are a bad man, Guillen declared, then went a level up from that, for Jonathons parents Marissa and John: But your Mom and Dad, they are even badder than you.
READ: More on Jonathan Ruiz's compelling story

Guillen was honored for what presenter David Kaplan of Comcast SportsNet cited as the only baseball championship for Chicago in a combined, two-team span of 190 years.

If you want your dream to come true, Guillen said, you just have to wake up.

WATCH: Classic Ozzie being Ozzie during speech

Among those receiving awards:

White Sox of the Year--Gordon Beckham

Besides batting .310 over the second half of the 2010 season and finishing fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting, Beckham also initiated Out of the park for Parkinsons, a fundraising campaign in tribute to his grandfather to benefit the National Parkinsons Foundation. The efforts raised 60,000 in the campaigns first year.

The lives that March of Dimes has affected, saved, is pretty astounding, Beckham said. Its an honor to be here. Im honored and humbled to be the White Sox recipient of this award this year.

Bear of the Year--Israel Idonije

Idonije may not have been part of a victory over Green Bay in the NFC Championship game but he is an unqualified winner on a far bigger stage. The Bears defensive end was one of the three finalists for the NFLs Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work with the children and needy in Nigeria through the Israel Idonije Foundation.

And Monday he was named the Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning Bear of the Year for 2010.

Ive just been extremely blessed, Idonije said. Its an honor to receive this on behalf of an incredible group of people that allow us to do the work in our community. Tonight really symbolizes what community is all about.

Navistar Chicago Cub of the Year--Marlon Byrd

Byrd has played in a Major League All-Star game but Monday night was a new, slightly daunting experience for him.

Ive never been to a live awards dinner before, Byrd said, so this is a little like the Grammys.

The Cubs outfielder sponsors a team through the Union League Boys & Girls Club of Chicago to provide opportunities for inner-city children to play baseball. Byrd also meets with kids at Wrigley Field in conjunction with the Taylor Hooton Foundations Hoots Chalk Talk program to develop awareness of the dangers of drug use.

This is something that hits home for my wife and me, Byrd said. Weve got a three-year-old and a five-year-old so I understand what the March of Dimes is doing and trying to do.

We athletes are getting to live our dreams and the March of Dimes is helping the kids live their dreams as well.

Fire of the Year--Sean Johnson

The weather in Chicago may have mellowed lately but it is still not what it is in Florida where Johnsons team was this week. So there was some justice done when one of Johnsons teammates textd him from Florida while Johnson was up here to receive the award as Fire of the Year.

WATCH: Sarah Kustok chats with honorees

My teams actually traveling in south Florida and my roommate texted me that they landed and how nice the weather was, 80 degrees and tropical, said Johnson, who made time in his rookie season to begin work with the Chicago Fire Foundation on grants and contributions to Chicago organizations.

Twenty minutes later, he texted me and said the bus on the way to the hotel had a flat tire.

Johnny Red KerrNorm Van Lier Bull of the Year--Taj Gibson

The Bulls forward who was selected to the NBAs All-Rookie first team has reached out beyond the court to make a difference. Gibson has become involved in efforts by the Chicago Public Schools to promote the Back-to-School campaign to get kids back in school. He also was part of the NBAs basketball without borders program in Asia and he has worked with the Red Cross on disaster relief.

Hes also gotten past a touch of shyness, with some help.

Im just blessed, Gibson said. Id like to thank my teammates for giving me the courage every day. As you can see, Im really a shy guy. But just playing with them every day has given me the strength to come out and represent the Chicago Bulls.

Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers Blackhawk of the Year--Duncan Keith

The Stanley Cup Champions were represented Monday by Keith, an Olympic gold medalist in addition to winning the James Norris trophy, who addressed some of the skittishness facing fans because of the shaky playoff chances for the Blackhawks.

I dont want anybody counting us out just yet, Keith said. Were not done yet, thats for sure.

Master of Ceremonies Steve Dahl had his own leading indicator that the Blackhawks are not planning on ending their season at only 82 games.

I firmly believe the Blackhawks will be in the playoffs, Dahl said, with a glance toward Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz sitting nearby, because today Rocky sent me an invoice for playoff tickets.

WATCH: Jim Cornelison closes out ceremony by singing the anthem

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants more than just the playoffs, however. The championship season gave him a taste of what winning a title in Chicago can be like.

The best part was that parade and how everybody enjoyed it, Quenneville said. It was so much fun that wed love to do it again, and real soon.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

glanville_oct_21.jpg
USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.