Cubs

Frankie O: Summer FUNdraiser

Frankie O: Summer FUNdraiser

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

The All-Star break is always welcome around my house: No games, which means Im not watching games on three TVs to get my roto fix. And it also means Im not looking at my phone for updates every five minutes for the games I dont have on! Its always good to take some time to recharge and get ready for what Im sure will be a long second half. (Im really starting to wonder if all the time I spend scavenging two different waiver wires for anything that can help my plight is good for my overall health!)

Baseball is never far away though. It will always be the soundtrack for every summer as long as I live. The game took a hold of me a long time ago and wont let go. Unfortunately, at my age, almost all of my interaction comes from watching others play. But Im OK with that. As long as one of my kids wants to have a catch with their old man once in a while, Im fine.

This year, for the first time I can remember, I didnt watch the Home Run Derby. It was fun in the beginning, but lately its been like watching paint dry. Think the NBA Slam Dunk contest, but only over two full hours. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. The Josh Hamilton thing in Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago was cool, but in the convoluted rules of the contest, he didnt even win. I know chicks dig the long ball, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Then the game was not much better. After the NL went up 5-0 in the top of the first, most of the bar tuned out the game. So much for all the hype! As a fan, I still enjoy the whole process, but I think I enjoy finding out whos in and whos out more than the game itself. I also get a kick out of when they bring in the old-timers, also known as the heroes of my long ago youth. George Brett looks like he could still hit .300. There are still some great individual matchups, but its still an exhibition, no matter what Mr. Selig is trying to sell you.

And add to it, there are no Thursday games this year so it was a full four-day break. Am I the only one who thinks it feels longer than that? This week TGIF is really that.

Something that really has me excited and was something that I focused on during my free time is a fundraiser that Im helping organize. I know reading that word makes some folks eyes glaze over, but Id appreciate if you read on.

I know its hard to go 10 minutes in this life without anyone asking for something, but I would hope we can all find at least one thing that helps us give back. If we all find one, trust me, we would all be better off. It doesnt take much, and the reward, not that one is being sought, is always the payoff.

My feeling on such an endeavor is that, if you plan an event, just make it fun. I try not to focus on the overall financial aspect, since I do believe that every little bit helps.

Most of all, it is always about the interactions of every one participating that Im most into and aware of. (Once a bartender, always a bartender!) In other words: I want everyone to feel great about coming, have a good time, and realize how much their simple act of kindness means to so many others.

As Ive written many times, my life changed forever once my first child was born. It opened my eyes to a whole new world that I had never seen before. (It also opened up a whole new audience for stories to entertain with at the bar. Who knew there were so many parents out there?!)

Having a child born with some issues opened them even more. In the beginning there were a lot of sleepless nights and unanswered questions. You know the kind of questions that I mean. But not being the negative sort, and also realizing this situation was never going away, I got back to reality and tried to deal with everything head-on. Of course, that is my way and not necessarily how everyone would react. I completely understand anyone that struggles with what seems like the worst news possible. It really is tough to grasp. Maybe in a way, my own forward progress was a bit of denial, but in the situation, you do whatever it takes.

As I mentioned here last week (and several other times before) the beacon for me and my family was our doctor and the organization that she has been a major part of: The Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types. (FIRST)( www.firstskinfoundation.org.) What my son, and just about every other affected associated with the foundation, has is very rare, at least as a measure of the general population. The number in this country could be in the multiple millions. The meaning of this last sentence is that funding for cures and research, not to mention people with the ability to do the work, is not as abundant as a lot of other diseases or disorders. The word Ive sometimes heard used for Ichthyosis disorders is orphan. Meaning there are not a lot of national entities devoted to them.

In this case it means that anyone connected in any way to anyone who has been affected by these disorders has to do all they can to help raise funds to support the organization that is fighting to better their lives every day.

FIRST has positively affected the lives of everyone that I have met that is associated with the organization. And Im not just talking about people like myself, who were forced to join!

Think about that. That is pretty cool.

That comes from the positive energy being created by a relatively small group of people who want to help people and make a difference in the lives of others.

You can imagine the guilt I feel when Im with these folks and mention how much my time spent on my fantasy team is paying off!

So this is where I get to the point. (Insert trumpeted fanfare here!)

I want to help out and raise money, and in the spirit of who I am, Im trying to do it in one of my favorite settings. Thats right, at a baseball game.

The Chicago White Sox have been gracious enough to offer an opportunity where, in a group of tickets that they are holding for FIRST, they will give the foundation back half the amount of every ticket that we are able to sell. How cool is that?

For me this is the perfect fundraiser. It gives family and friends time to spend together at a ballpark and at the same time doing something very important.

I envision a night with kids wearing gloves hoping to catch a ball from their (new) favorite slugger, laughter coming from groups of adults socializing (or social drinking) while watching Chicagos FIRST (Coincidence?!!) place team, or a weight-challenged father dealing with mustard drippings on his previously white, Sox jersey, from the consumption of one too many hot dogs because he is driven crazy by the smell of sauted onions as he enters the stadium. (Was that really one sentence? Boo-ya!)

So if youre not doing anything on the evening of Wednesday, August 8, (8-8-12) get a hold of me through the information below, or through FIRST, and come join us for a game and a good time.

I know for a fact, when you leave the game, youll be glad you were there. It always feels good to be a part of something special.

Hope to see you there!!

FIRST NIGHT AT THE WHITE SOX

Wednesday, August 8th @ 7:10 pm vs. the Kansas City Royals
Bleacher seats, 34 each, with half the money being donated to FIRST!
Contact: Frank Osowski Frankieo@harrycarays.com

FIRST is a registered 501(c)(3)nonprofit entity.

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

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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.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.