White Sox

Solorio's Petroza knows his priorities

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Solorio's Petroza knows his priorities

Adan Petroza is well aware of his priorities in life. The 6-foot-3 junior, the leader of Solorio Academy's 17-2 basketball team, missed two games last week because he was attending a journalism class at Columbia College. Move over, Bob Costas, make room for Adan Petroza.

"I want to be a sports journalist," he said. "I'm enrolled in an internship at Columbia Links, a journalism program for youth. I want to major in journalism in college. I like talking sports and getting more involved in sports around Chicago."

Petroza, who commutes via the Orange Line train to the downtown campus from his home at 57th and Kedzie in the Gage Park neighborhood, is looking forward to his next assignment. He is planning to interview Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah for a story.

He loves to compete in sports--he played wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and kicker on the football team last fall--and he would like to play football or basketball in college, probably at the Division III level. But he acknowledges that sports journalism is his future.

"I like both sports," he said. "In football, I like to hit someone and get angry but it's legal. I can't do that in basketball. But when I make shots and plays in basketball, when I am in a zone, it's a great feeling. Winning is the best part of both sports.

"But work is my first priority. I must work toward my future. Who knows if sports will be there? Some coaches say that if I continue to work hard I might be able to play at a Division III college. But who knows? I like sports but I know sports journalism is my future."

Last week, Petroza was attending class when Solorio defeated Gage Park 55-47 on Tuesday and Hancock 72-35 on Thursday. He will be in the lineup when Solorio meets Epic on Wednesday. Epic handed Solorio one of its two defeats last month. But he'll miss Thursday's game against Kennedy for another class session.

While Petroza was attending classes, his teammates stepped up. Kejuan Thornton had 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals and 5-foot-6 junior James Partee came off the bench to score 11 points against Gage Park. Thornton had 34 points, five rebounds and five steals and Thomas Jones scored 12 points against Hancock.

"This is our first varsity team," coach Corey Bradford said. "The school is only three years old. We only have freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the building. Am I surprised? Yes. It is one of those things. We've had some tight games but the ball has fallen our way.

"We have a great group of guys. They play football and basketball. They have a great work ethic. They aren't a real talented team but we have some good pieces and they play well together. Every game someone steps up. We don't have any Division I players in basketball, only in football. All of them are better at football than basketball.

"A lot of people don't even know we are there yet. We just keep winning and building a system. We'll start getting basketball players out of elementary school. It will take us to win the Green Division and move up to the Blue. Then people will start to know who we are."

Bradford, 30, a Julian graduate of 1999, played basketball with Sean Dockery (Duke) and Lance Williams (DePaul). He coached in Sonny Parker's youth program and coached AAU ball before being hired as Solorio's first coach three years ago.

"I wanted to build a program from the ground up," Bradford said.

Solorio, located at 5400 S. St. Louis in the Gage Park neighborhood, has an enrollment of 1,000. It is a Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) school that is connected with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Its mission is to equip students with the discipline, knowledge and skills necessary to graduate from college.

Bradford has built his program around Petroza (11 ppg, 12 rpg); Thornton (23 ppg), a 6-foot-1 junior who transferred from Bogan; Jones (20 ppg), a 6-foot junior who has just returned after sitting out since suffering a broken foot in Game 4; 6-foot-2 sophomore Lamont Smith (10 ppg, 10 rpg); and 5-foot-11 sophomore point guard Emontrey Bates (8 ppg, 8 assists). Other contributors are Partee, 6-foot-6 junior Marco Flores (8 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-foot junior Fabricio Lopez.

"Our goal is to win our conference this year, move up to the Blue Division and play tougher competition next year," Petroza said. "We want to build a tradition and make a name for ourselves and the school. People don't know about us. We want to make a reputation.

"We want to make a good image around the school and get the word out around the community that we are here. I'm surprised by our success so far. Last year, we played a varsity schedule as sophomores and didn't do too well (8-7). We learned we had to get better if we wanted to play at the varsity level.

"We lost one game in three overtimes and another in double overtime. We had to learn how to finish games. I wasn't worried about missing last week's games because I felt we would win. I'm sorry I'm going to miss the Kennedy game. But work is my first priority. I must work toward my future."

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."