White Sox

IncrediBulls define team mentality

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IncrediBulls define team mentality

For years, they have defined the team mentality that weve come to know the Bulls for.

Their contributions throughout the United Center often go unnoticed by most as the LuvaBulls and Matadors receive most of the notoriety, but aside from the actual team, there might not be a more important factor on game night than the IncrediBulls.

The roster goes 15 deep, including the likes of Terrance Grady, Morris Brent, Joe Alexander, Mitchell Mangoba, Ernesto Sanchez, Michael Turner, Ashlee Bodden, Darrel Dupit, Pegie Diaz, Eric Wackerfuss, Carlos Ayala, Deborah Byczkowski, Dagoberto Soto, Tom Niemiera, and Shawnkesse Jackson.

Its a team built on energy, enthusiasm, personality, creativity, teamwork, professionalism and showmanship. Aside from the energy aspect, teamwork is arguably the most essential aspect of the squad.

There are plenty of things that we have to do out there on the court, in the stands that involve more than just one person, says 10-year vet Ayala. We have to communicate with one another as far as running a sling-team where were swinging the t-shirts. We all have to be perfectly coordinated, two people holding the sling, one person slinging and we have one person whos technically showing the shirt to the crowd of what were going to be tossing them. Its very important. Its a lot of teamwork. Just like in any other workplace, you have to be able to communicate with everybody and work to be on the same page.

The t-shirts, arguably the item in which theyre most linked with and the ultimate souvenir for fans lucky enough to have one flung, thrown or cannoned their way during a break in play.

To casual observers, it may look just like a group of individuals scrambling around, but its all coordinated with timing.

Its knowing where youre supposed to be when youre supposed to be there, says Wackerfuss, an IncrediBull for five years. It goes along with teamwork. If you have a timeout that lasts about a minute-and-a-half, when you hear the horn go off, when the timeout is over, you know thats your signal to get off the court, so you dont disrupt the game and, god forbid, have the team get assessed a delay of game penalty because of something we caused. Its really an important issue to make sure that were in the spots that we need to be in, in order to both rev up the crowd and not disrupt the game.

From the 300 level to the ground floor, they keep United Center faithful engaged through wins, bouts of lack of energy and are still expected to draw the crowds reaction during a loss.

Its not all rah-rah either as any member on the Bulls will tell you that they have the best fans in the world and their tenacity on a nightly basis is a direct correlation to the crowds energy.

The energy that we bring to the crowd allows the NBA players to have the energy on the court, says four-year member Turner. I kind of feel without us amping the crowd up; it doesnt give players that energy. Thats just my personal opinion. Our energy feeds the crowd and that feeds the players.

Being an IncrediBull is only a part-time, seasonal position as there is no true job security with tryouts being held every summer for new potential members.

In any job, there are those days where you simply just dont have it in terms of energy and you have to coast throughout the day. That isnt a luxury that the IncrediBulls are afforded.

All of us have other jobs aside from this during the day, says Diaz, a five-year veteran. Sometimes we can have a stressful day at work but as soon as we get to the United Center, we have to leave everything outside and turn into a different person. Were here to make people happy and to get the crowd pumped up and screaming.

Their duties extend beyond the confines United Center as they also lend their time to charity and community events, represent the organization at special events and promotional engagements.

No matter what theyre called on to do, its never too much as each member has an undying love for the franchise and city which Ayala sums up perfectly.

10 years ago when I got this job, I had a friend who told me hey, the Bulls are looking to hire people that are going to be fun, energetic, throw a couple of t-shirts into the crowd, run a couple of contests and you get paid for it. Are you serious? That was a no-brainer for me. If they would have said its for free than I would have probably still done it. I was here every single game my rookie year. It was a couple tough years after the Jordan era, but Ive been a fan of sports my whole life and going back to the first six championships the Bulls had. To be in the same building, see those banners; why wouldnt anybody want to do that? If youre a fan of the Bulls, why wouldnt you want to be in my position? I feel like Im one of the lucky 13 people on this squad that get to do what we do.

Interestedin being a member of the IncrediBulls? Be sure to stay tuned to Bulls.com for tryout infomation.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."