Jackie Murray

Welcome home: Devin Hester, Matt Forte will retire as Bears

hester_forte_ap.jpg
AP

Welcome home: Devin Hester, Matt Forte will retire as Bears

There’s no place like home. 

On Wednesday, the Bears announced that former players Devin Hester and Matt Forte will sign one-day contracts with the team on April 23 to retire as members of the Bears organization. 

Both Hester and Forte spent their first eight seasons playing football for Chicago, and their legacy will now be retired in orange and navy.

Hester, a Bear from 2006-13, starting setting records his rookie season by recording five touchdown returns and earning Pro Bowl honors while helping the Bears reach Super Bowl XLI, all in his first year.

In one of his most memorable plays as a Bear, Hester ran back a 92-yard kick return touchdown to start Super Bowl XLI not even 20 seconds into the matchup vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

One more time for old time’s sake:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVT91mNMS8A

In his overall career with the Bears, Hester set franchise records for punt returns (264), punt return touchdowns (13), punt return touchdowns in a season (4), kickoff returns (222), kickoff return yards (5,504) and kickoff return touchdowns in a single game (2). Over his 11-year career, he’s totaled 20 return touchdowns total — the most in NFL history.
 
Forte, known as one of the best dual-threat backs in Bears history, also had a breakout rookie season to kickoff his time with the Bears. He recorded 63 receptions, 1,238 total rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns.

The two-time Pro Bowler also set a single-season record by notching 102 receptions in 2014. This allowed him to be only one of three running backs in NFL history to record 100+ receptions in a single season. 

Collectively with the Bears, Forte ran for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns while also adding racking up 4,116 receiving yards and receiving 19 touchdowns. 

His 2,035 rushing attempts and 8,602 rushing yards each rank second all-time by running back in Bears history and 11th overall in the NFL. 

Welcome home, Devin and Matt. It's good to have you back. 

Bucket list unfulfilled: Unlucky Cubs fan travels from Down Under, welcomed by Chiberia in April

Bucket list unfulfilled: Unlucky Cubs fan travels from Down Under, welcomed by Chiberia in April

Thinking about how much these postponed baseball games have ruined your past two days? It could be worse, Cubs fans.

Meet Lincoln Hansen — Australia’s biggest Cubs fan and, well, quite possibly the unluckiest man in the world. 

Hansen hopped on that 25-plus hour flight from his native Gold Coast, Queensland area in hopes of seeing some North Side baseball that he’s been itching for for the past 16 years.

Hansen had his first Wrigley experience in July 2002, when he made the trip across the pond to play in a junior baseball tournament with the Champaign Flyers and visited the Friendly Confines with some teammates. 

Why a Cubs game rather than a White Sox game? 

“The guys who brought me here were all White Sox fans,” he explained. “The Sox must’ve been on the road that weekend, but thank God they brought me here cause now I’m a Cubs fan for life.”

Upon seeing the red brick, green ivy and slugging Sammy Sosa — the usual hero in his old, beloved EA Sports Triple Play Baseball game — in person for the first time , he was hooked.

A three-city trip — which he gifted to himself for turning 30 this year — started in Vancouver and included baseball-filled days in both Chicago and Toronto. It’s colder in Chicago than it was in Vancouver, Hansen said. 

Take that Canada!

He had tickets for an April 16 matchup versus the Braves — the original matchup he saw in 2002— and for the April 17 game against the always-contentious division rival Cardinals. Hansen was excited to have the opportunity to witness Lester take the mound and to see his favorite player, Anthony Rizzo, have his first game back off the disabled list. 

But because of the brutal, Arctic conditions Chicago has been having even in mid-April — that have, yes, postponed already four Cubs games this season — those dreams were crushed. 

“It was a three-day stop over in Chicago to see two Cubs games, and I’m leaving with no Cubs games,” he said. 

But Old Man Winter doesn’t always disappoint. A perk of the coldest first half of a Chicago April since 1926, Hansen witnessed snow for the first time. With his baseball-less free time, he walked around Millenium Park and saw a snow-capped Bean. 

His trip also marks the first time he’s been back in Chicago since the Cubs 2016 World Series win. Hanson explained how there aren’t many baseball fans in Australia — he couldn’t even get his friends on the bandwagon — and would watch World Series evening games during his lunch time when they were aired, noting the 15-hour time difference.

Despite not seeing the Cubs take the field during his trip, just being in the area again is an experience in itself.

“It’s amazing to be back here 16 years later and see how it’s all changed. The vibe is totally different now than it was back then,” he said.  “Back then, the Cubbies were the perennial strugglers and no World Series success and now it’s totally turned around. They’ve got a good, young roster and I can see success for a few more years with the Cubs.”

And for that bucket list moment of coming back to a Cubs game?

“I can’t take it off yet”

We’ll see you soon at the corner of Clark and Addison, Lincoln.
 

When They Were Prospects: Jose Abreu

When They Were Prospects: Jose Abreu

With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.

Before Jose Abreu became the MLB powerhouse that all South Side fans came to know and love, he was a slugging prospect playing in his native Cuba.

There were first reports of him leaving Cuba Aug. 11, 2013, and he signed with the White Sox just 79 days later on Oct. 29.

He turned heads that past March during the 2013 World Baseball Classic putting up a .360/.385/.760 line in 6 games, including 3 HR and 9 RBI’s for Cuba.

Here’s how he performed in his last four seasons playing for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series.

Last 4 seasons in Cuba (Cienfuegos):
                           Games                                HR
2009-10                89           .399/.555/.822   30
2010-11                66           .453/.597/.986   33
2011-12                87           .394/.542/.837   35
2012-13                77           .345/.481/.617   19
 

With these numbers, he earned the title of being Baseball America’s #29 prospect entering the 2014 season. 

“Signed to a Major League contract, Abreu has higher expectations than most on this list.  The White Sox are counting on him to make the Majors and hit in the middle of their lineup,” Baseball America quoted in their report.

Some memorable quotes about Abreu?

“He just might be the best hitter in the world.  And you’ve probably never heard of him.” - Grantland - Jonah Keri

“There are legitimate comparisons to Ryan Howard.” - Oakland A’s GM David Forst