White Sox

Cubs' No. 1 draft pick Ed Howard thrives on big stage

Cubs' No. 1 draft pick Ed Howard thrives on big stage

Ed Howard IV was a fixture at Mount Carmel High School’s baseball facilities years before he attended school there.

His older sister, Chanel Howard, was close with shortstop Jerry Houston. During his senior year, Houston would pick up 11-year-old Ed Howard on his way to campus. They’d work out or take batting practice together.

Caravan coach Brian Hurry remembers watching a young Howard field ground balls with the Mount Carmel players who would go on to win the state tournament that year. Howard fit right in.

“I think the bigger the stage, the better he plays,” Hurry told NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s never intimidated.”

Howard has been in the spotlight since he was in middle school, when he and the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars made it all the way to the 2014 Little League World Series final. Leading up to Wednesday’s 2020 MLB Draft, national attention has again turned to Howard. The 18-year-old shortstop is a likely first-round pick.

MLB.com ranked him No. 15 in this draft class, while Baseball America gave him a No. 20 ranking and identified him as the top high school shortstop. While most mock drafts project Howard to be selected lower than the White Sox’s No. 11 pick or the Cubs’ No. 16, it wouldn’t be unheard of for the hometown kid to land in Chicago.

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Howard’s first baseball memories are of his mother tossing a beach ball for him to hit with a wiffle ball bat. Not long after, their front and back yards became daily training sites for Howard and his father, Ed Howard III.

“Even though he was a normal kid like any other five-year-old running around with a lot of energy,” Ed Howard III said of his son, “once you would get him on the field or playing ball or playing catch with him, he could just calm down and concentrate. He just had the ability to learn so quickly that it was so easy to teach him baseball, football, basketball. And he was advanced at each sport.”

As young as seven years old, Ed Howard IV knew baseball was the one he’d stick with.

“I just think it was my passion,” Howard said. “I just gravitated towards it.”

So, Ed Howard III decided it was time to find a coach who could get the most out of his son’s talents. That’s how Ed Howard IV came to join Lou Collier’s 10-and-under travel ball team, a few years ahead of schedule.

Collier had created the Lou Collier Baseball Association after returning home from an eight-year MLB career and a stint in the Korean Baseball Organization. His mission: developing youth baseball players, especially on the South Side of Chicago.

“He’s the guy who taught me my fundamentals at such a young age,” Howard said. “Offensively and defensively.”

They worked on footwork with cones and ladders. Once Howard got that down, they dropped to their knees and isolated glove work.

“I learned the right way,” Howard said. “So, when I got older and I was just having fun with it, just making plays, I was doing it the right way.”

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Tens of thousands of fans packed into Howard J. Lamade Stadium for the U.S. title game at the 2014 Little League World Series. Another 5 million tuned into the nationally-televised game. Back in Chicago, the Cubs game had halted for rain, and fans streamed to the concourse to watch their hometown team in the Little League World Series.

“I like that feeling,” Howard said of playing in front of a packed ballpark. “I feel like that feeling motivated me to keep pushing and getting better because I wanted to make those few weeks in Williamsport a reality, I wanted to play in front of crowds like that every single day.”

In the final inning, Howard had moved from shortstop to close the game on the mound. With two on and one out, the go-ahead run stood at the plate.

The ping of the bat reverberated around the ballpark as Las Vegas’s Josiah Cromwick drilled a comebacker into the grass between him and Howard. No better time to have on the mound the infielder who Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin nicknamed “Silk.”

Howard snagged the one-hopper and turned 180 degrees in one fluid motion. His throw to second base started a game-winning double play.

“I remember the whole crowd getting up cheering, and everybody was chanting U-S-A,” Howard said. “So, just moments like that, I can still play those memories in my head just like it was yesterday.”

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Howard and his father watched the Little League World Series together for years without expecting to end up there themselves.

“You don’t see a lot of African American teams in that tournament,” the elder Ed Howard said.

In 2014, Jackie Robinson West became the first all-black team to win the U.S. championship. The underdog story included a title-game re-match with a Las Vegas team that had beaten Jackie Robinson West 13-2 earlier in the tournament. Cue the media frenzy.

Jackie Robinson West went on to lose to South Korea in the final, but the team had already made history.

The White Sox and Cubs both hosted Jackie Robinson West after their triumphant return. The City of Chicago threw a victory parade; thousands attended. President Barack Obama invited the team to the White House.

So, after all that build up, the fall out was just as extreme.

In 2015, Little League baseball stripped Jackie Robinson West of its title. The organization found that the team included players from outside its designated boundaries. It was a national story, and Howard and his teammates were caught in the middle of it.

“When I was 12, 13 years old, it just showed me, always stay level-headed,” Howard said. “I don’t play this game and do it for fans or anything like that. I just do it for myself and my family. I feel like that’s what it taught me at a young age.”

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By the time Howard came to Mount Carmel as a freshman, Hurry was plenty familiar with Howard’s talents. He wasn’t fooled by his size – about 5-foot-4 and 150 pounds.

“I think that shaped him big time, whether he knows it or not,” Ed Howard III said of his son. “… To play in one of the most competitive high school leagues in the Midwest as a freshman was big. I don’t even think he knows.”

By Howard’s senior year, he had three season of varsity ball under his belt. He’d shot up to 6-foot-3 and put on 13 pounds over the offseason, thanks to summer workouts with his trainer, Jason Griffin. The Caravan had seven starters returning and was eying a state title.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the Illinois High School Association cancelled all spring sports state tournaments.

The shutdowns could be a disadvantage for draft prospects like Howard, high school graduates from cold-weather states. A strong senior season could have solidified his standing. In a recent mock draft, ESPN MLB Insider Kiley McDaniel had Howard falling to the Rays with the No. 37 overall pick for that very reason.

“No doubt, it’s more challenging this year than it’s ever been,” said Dan Kantrovitz, Cubs vice president of scouting, “but we’ve always been faced with trying to compare players with varying degrees of data. … This year it’s just a little more extreme.”

Howard also isn’t an anonymous teenager just emerging onto big league teams’ radars. He hasn’t been anonymous since he was 12 years old.

“I know whatever happens, it’ll be a great situation,” Howard said. “Just excited to see how it plays out.”

A bigger stage awaits.

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MLB The Show Sim: Giants walk it off in extras against White Sox in 5-4 win

MLB The Show Sim: Giants walk it off in extras against White Sox in 5-4 win

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: Giants def. White Sox 5-4

Record: 14-24, 4th in AL Central (8.0 GB of Twins)

W: Jandel Gustave (2-1)

L: Aaron Bummer (2-1)

Game Summary: After dropping two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays, the White Sox traveled to take on the Giants at Oracle Park, and unfortunately, the losing ways continued. After taking a 4-2 lead in the sixth, the White Sox bullpen blew the two-run lead to send the game to extra innings. With two aboard in the 11th, Giants manager Gabe Kapler sent Rob Brantly to the plate as the pinch hitter against Aaron Bummer. Brantly got the best of Bummer with a walk-off double to propel the Giants to a 5-4 win.

Early on, the fans were treated to the lefty vs. lefty matchup of Gio Gonzalez and Drew Smyly. Gonzalez had a rough start to the game when the second batter he faced, Austin Slater, hit a inside-the-park home run to right field that Nomar Mazara misplayed. Gonzalez settled and was solid in 6.0 innings of work, allowing only three earned runs. 

Smyly struggled against the Sox as Jose Abreu homered and drove in a run in his next at bat, while Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson both had RBI singles to boost a Sox offense that has recently turned things around at the plate.

White Sox Lineup:

  1. Tim Anderson: 1-5, RBI, BB (.296 BA)
  2. Yoan Moncada: 1-4, 2 BB (.260 BA)
  3. Jose Abreu: 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB (.248 BA)
  4. Yasmani Grandal: 2-5, RBI, BB (.267 BA)
  5. Eloy Jimenez: 0-5 (.225 BA)
  6. Luis Robert: 1-4, BB (.240 BA)
  7. Nomar Mazara: 0-4 (.223 BA), PH: Leury Garcia: 0-1 (.181 BA)
  8. Nick Madrigal: 1-4 (.338 BA), PH: James McCann: 0-1 (.000 BA)
  9. Gio Gonzalez: 0-2 (.000 BA), PH: Danny Mendick: 0-2 (.353 BA)

Scoring Summary:

Bottom 1st:

  • Austin Slater inside-the-park homered to right field. 1-0 SF.

Top 3rd:

  • Jose Abreu homered to left field. 1-1.

Bottom 4th:

  • Hunter Pence singled to center field. Austin Slater scored. 2-1 SF.

Top 5th

  • Jose Abreu singled to center field. Tim Anderson scored. 2-2.
  • Yasmani Grandal singled to right field. Yoan Moncada scored. 3-2 CHW.

Top 6th

  • Tim Anderson singled to center field. Nick Madrigal scored. 4-2 CHW.

Bottom 7th

  • Brandon Crawford singled to left field. Evan Longoria scored. 4-3 CHW.

Bottom 8th

  • Mike Yastrzemski doubled to center field. Austin Slater scored. 4-4.

Bottom 11th

  • Rob Brantly doubled to right field. Evan Longoria scored. 5-4 SF.

Notable Performance: Nick Madrigal extended his hit streak to six games on Friday with a base hit off of Drew Smyly, a left-hander. The rookie second baseman is hitting .286 this season vs. left-handed pitchers and .364 against right-handed pitching.

Next Game: Saturday, May 9 - Gm. 39: White Sox at Giants (Reynaldo Lopez, 2-2, 4.91 ERA vs Dereck Rodriguez, 4-1, 3.77 ERA)

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Juan Uribe didn't know names of most '05 World Series teammates

Juan Uribe didn't know names of most '05 World Series teammates

Juan Uribe might be one of the most beloved players from the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, but when it came to knowing the names of his teammates, the all-or-nothing Uribe often struck out.

“He didn’t know anybody,” said A.J. Pierzynski, who played with Uribe in Chicago from 2005 to 2009. “One time, we played 'Name Your Teammate' with him and he could only name three guys on the team. It was (Mark) Buehrle. He called him ‘Bailey.’ He knew me. I think he knew Jermaine (Dye) and PK (Paul Konerko). He said, ‘Oh, PK, you’re El Capitan. I know you.’”

Pierzynski recalled what it was like playing with the eccentric Uribe in a conversation with fellow 2005 alumni on the “Be Chicago: Together We Can” telethon Wednesday on NBC Sports Chicago.

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Not knowing the names of his teammates wasn't limited to Chicago. The same thing happened at Uribe's next stop when he signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.

“I got a chance to play with Uribe later on in San Francisco,” said outfielder Aaron Rowand, who told a story about the time they were driving on the team bus from the ballpark to the airport. “I grabbed the mic and I told Uribe, ‘We’re going to play a game. We’re going to see who you can name on your team.’ So he went down the aisle trying to name everybody. He got to our backup catcher Steve Holm and he said, ‘Uhhhh, No. 20.’ So it never changed. He never knew anybody on his squad.”

RELATED: Jermaine Dye's surprising revelation about Game 2 of 2005 World Series

Uribe, who was a playoff hero with the White Sox as well as the Giants, might have played more than two years in San Francisco if he hadn’t misunderstood the negotiations when he became a free agent after the 2010 season.

The Giants wanted to bring him back, but the Dodgers — their biggest rival — were in hot pursuit.

“(Giants manager) Bruce Bochy called me,” recalled former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was Uribe’s close friend. “Tell (Uribe) we’re going to match every penny the Dodgers are going to give him. We want him back.”

Guillen got Uribe on the phone and delivered the message.

“Two days later, Uribe signed with the Dodgers. Bochy called me saying, ‘What the hell? What happened?’” Guillen said.

Uribe had agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers, spurning the Giants, who he had just helped win a World Series.

 Guillen called Uribe back and asked why he signed with the Dodgers and not the Giants. 

“$21 million is not $20 million,” was Uribe’s answer.

“I said, ‘They were going to match! He didn’t understand it in Spanish,” Guillen said.

And that was the reason why the shortstop signed with the Dodgers.

“He was the best,” Pierzynski said of Uribe. “He was crazy, but he was just crazy enough to know what he was doing.”

Well, most of the time.

Listen to more stories from the 2005 White Sox reunion on this episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

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