Bears

How Hope became hope for kids

600388.png

How Hope became hope for kids

Bob Muzikowski has a message for President Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago:

"If you want to affect the schools, put your own kids in it," he said.

Muzikowski, who owns his own small insurance brokerage company, put his money and his children where his mouth is.

Eight years ago, he and some friends bought St. Callistus elementary school from the Chicago Archdiocese for 1.9 million, then spent 5 million to rehab the building. Seven years ago, he opened Hope Academy, a co-educational, non-denominational Christian college and life preparatory school.

Located at 2189 W. Bowler, Hope Academy opened with 30 sophomores and 40 freshmen and has increased its enrollment to 157 with a planned maximum of 240. Three of Muzikowski's seven children have graduated from Hope. Two have gone on to Ivy League schools. Three other children currently are attending Hope and a 9-year-old will go there, too.

"We are dedicated to nurturing the whole person--body, mind and spirit--to the glory of God," said Muzikowski, who serves as the school's chief administrator and spends 50 hours a week in the building.

"I wanted to even the playing field for inner city kids. Not all private schools should be for rich kids or racially segregated. Our graduates have been accepted at Georgetown, Notre Dame, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Illinois and Wheaton College.

"The assumption is that minority schools have to be second-rate and that isn't the case. We just have to buckle down and do the work. We're about educating young boys and turning them into men. Our average ACT score is the highest in the city for a non-magnet school, 21.5."

Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Muzikowski played baseball and football at Columbia University. He was the first in his family to go to college. His father dropped out of high school to fight in World War II.

Muzikowski moved to Chicago as a newlywed in 1988 and moved into an apartment a block away from the Cabrini Green housing project on the near West Side. He was an insurance agent. His wife was a trader for J.P. Morgan. He started a Little League in Cabrini in 1991.

Along the way, he met Mike Edwards, a 1987 graduate of Elston High School in Michigan City, Indiana, and a former baseball player at Valparaiso University.

"How do we affect change in their lives?" Muzikowski asked Edwards after he began coaching the Little Leaguers. "Open a school."

"We wanted to make a difference," said Edwards, who is in his fourth year as Hope's basketball coach.

Hope Academy, often confused with Hope High School, is not affiliated with the Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Archdiocese. It is an independent school, like Latin School or Francis Parker or Chicago Lab. Its faculty includes 10 graduates of Wheaton College.

"Teachers are lining up out the door to work at a school that is organized and disciplined," Muzikowski said. "We're old school. The harder we work, the luckier we get."

The basketball team is 17-2 and rated among the favorites to win the Class 1A championship. Its only losses were to highly rated Huntley and St. Ignatius. But the Eagles have beaten Class 3A power Marshall, which won a state championship in 2008. It conducts practices and plays "home" games at Tim Grover's Attack Athletics training facility on the West Side.

"It would be great for morale if we won (the 1A title)," Muzikowski said, "but our goal is for the kids to try hard and compete with other teams. It is more important to build young men of character. Sports is as important as history and biology. When I was a kid, I would have died to win a state championship."

Bears to hold joint training camp practices with Broncos this summer

Bears to hold joint training camp practices with Broncos this summer

The Bears will reunite with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Denver this summer, as word broke Monday the Broncos will host Matt Nagy and Co. for joint training camp practices in advance of their preseason game in August.

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs confirmed the news on Twitter.

This is the second time Denver will welcome the Bears for training camp sessions. The two teams held joint practices back in 2018.

Training camp won't be the first time the Bears will see Fangio since his departure last offseason. Chicago pulled off a last-second victory over the Broncos in Week 2 of the 2019 season when kicker Eddy Pineiro booted a 53-yard game-winner as time expired in the fourth quarter. His kick was set up by the clutch version of Mitch Trubisky, who connected on a 25-yard pass to Allen Robinson on the play before Pineiro's conversion.

Fangio left a lasting impact during his time as the Bears defensive coordinator that reached its peak in 2018 when Chicago was widely regarded as the most ferocious defense in the league. The Bears finished third in yards allowed per game and ended the season with the top run defense. Their 27 interceptions were tops in the NFL, too.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.