White Sox

Thornton's Banks dreams of Oregon

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Thornton's Banks dreams of Oregon

Thornton's Jalen Banks is a unique personality. He is a genuine student-athlete. He competes in two sports. He ranks No. 3 in a class of 432. And he wants to study civil engineering in college.Talk about juggling your busy schedule to accommodate classes, homework, practice, games and the recruiting process. Well, Banks has been running ahead of the curve since he received a C in reading as a fourth grader."I went to a private school early and they instilled academics in me," Banks said. "They talked about the challenges of high school. Grades are important but I don't look at it as work. I'm capable of doing it so why not? If I get a B, I get mad at myself. Why can't I do better? Competing in the classroom is like competing in football or track."Banks has worked hard to achieve success at all levels. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety has accumulated 10 scholarship offers and the list, which includes schools from the Big Ten, SEC and ACC, is a testimony to his ability to combine academics and football skills.He has offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Western Michigan. He made unofficial visits to Iowa and Wisconsin last week during spring break. Earlier, he visited Illinois, Northwestern and Michigan State. Since he doesn't plan to commit until after the 2012 season, he can be expected to receive more offers.He hopes one of them will come from Oregon."Oregon is my dream school," he said. "Since I was 7 or 8-years-old, since I began following football and watching games on TV, I have loved Oregon. It's more than the (green and yellow) uniforms. I like the offense, the great players, the playmakers. I enjoy watching them play. I get more involved when I'm watching them. I was excited when they got to the national championship game."No, I'm not disappointed that they haven't offered yet. I have talked to them. They will see me in May. And I'm going to one of their camps in June. Theyll get a chance to evaluate me. I hope they like what they see. If I get a chance, I'd like to go there. But there are other great schools that have opened my eyes. It would be exciting to play in the SEC."But he isn't in a hurry. Coach Bill Mosel, preparing for his 27th season as head coach at the Harvey school, reminds that the recruiting process has accelerated in recent years. Offers are made sooner and sooner, sometimes when athletes are sophomores."I'll sit down with Jalen and his parents after the May evaluation period and see where they are at," Mosel said. "He needs to take visits. I don't want him to have any regrets by committing too early. Kids often renege on their early commitment because they don't take official visits and then find out a school is stockpiling talent at his position. Jalen won't commit before the season. He'll make visits in the fall."

In the meantime, Banks is eager to improve his speed (from 4.5 to 4.4) and demonstrate his leadership skills as one of four captains on a team that hopes to improve on last year's disappointing 6-4 finish. And he wants to win another state championship in track.Last year, Banks ran a leg on the winning 800-meter relay. He hopes to repeat this spring. He also competes in the 100, 200 and another relay. He enjoys track because it helps him to get in shape for football, improves his quickness and squeezes his competitive juices."The great ones are very focused. They know what they want," Mosel said. "When Jalen was a freshman, we talked about how he would like to see himself and he hasn't wavered. His career path hasn't changed."Mosel said Banks "has the opportunity to be the best defensive back we have produced, in a class with Jermaine Hampton," who played at Northern Illinois and with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.That's quite an accolade. Traditionally, Thornton is one of the most successful football programs in the state. A few years ago, eight of Mosel's products were competing in the NFL.Banks has played on the varsity since he was a freshman, a rarity in high school and especially at a high-profile school like Thornton. He started as a wide receiver. Midway through his sophomore year, he was moved to safety to fill a void in the defensive secondary. He likely will play safety in college. But if he gets a step faster, he could be moved to cornerback, the toughest position to fill at the college level."He has great feet. He is very fluid. He has good hips, good ball skills and reacts to the ball in the air. He also is very physical and comes up and makes tackles," Mosel said."From day one, I always liked football. It's a fun sport, a contact sport," Banks said. "There is something about hitting somebody or scoring touchdowns that makes it more exciting."Banks grew up in south suburban Hazel Crest and wasn't familiar with Thornton. But he played for the Harvey Colts youth team and attended a state playoff game and was bit by the bug. "From then on, I decided not to go to St. Rita or Marian Catholic," he said."Before I even walked into the school, I became aware of the tradition. Old-timers, the coaches for the Harvey Colts and other people were always talking about the Thornton tradition and the Lou Boudreau Room, where all the trophies and pictures of All-Staters and All-Americans are. Nothing else has to be said. You just look around and you see it and you feel it."His father always told him that, because of his size and footwork, he would be a defensive back. Jalen never objected. He relished the challenge. While others opted for the more glamorous positions such as quarterback, running back or wide receiver, he preferred defense."You get to make plays. You don't have to wait for the ball," he said. "On defense, it's up for grabs, for everybody who is hungry, 11 men flying to the ball. On defense, you can free-wheel to make plays."Banks, who was injured most of his freshman year, realized he had big-time potential early in his sophomore year. He had two interceptions in his first game. But that was only one game, he reasoned. But he stood out in a losing effort against Lincoln-Way East in the state playoff and the proverbial light bulb when on."I made a lot of plays, tackles for loss. I was matched up against (Illinois recruit) Jason Robertson. I didn't give up any big plays. It really made me feel confident, that I can play defensive back at the Division I level. I know I can hit and make tackles," he said.So Banks looks ahead to the 2012 season and the completion of the recruiting process. "I had a dream to be in this position," he said."I like being able to go out and get a feel for things, to meet players and coaches. I appreciate the personal letters. I'm looking for a balance between academics and athletics. I'm looking for a school that will help me excel as a student and as a player. I want a degree to get a guaranteed job."Every school has nice facilities. In the Big Ten, everybody has a big stadium. But do they have people within the program, people to help you get better, strength coaches and position coaches, people to look after you?"Jalen Banks is still looking.

For rebuilding White Sox, Welington Castillo PED suspension is 'a lesson we weren't looking to learn right now'

For rebuilding White Sox, Welington Castillo PED suspension is 'a lesson we weren't looking to learn right now'

This rebuilding season is all about “learning experiences,” as Rick Renteria is often quick to remind.

Now the White Sox have been taught a lesson they didn’t want to learn.

Welington Castillo, one of the few veteran leaders on this otherwise young, developing roster, was handed an 80-game suspension Thursday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

It’s the antithesis of the culture and identity the White Sox are trying hard to create as they attempt to construct a homegrown contender: playing hard, playing the right way, Ricky’s boys don’t quit. Earlier this week, it was Castillo, oddly enough, who was benched by Renteria for not running to first base on a popup. Now Castillo has received another punishment, one far more severe and one that didn’t come from the White Sox organization.

“It’s disappointing. Surprising, disappointing and there’s a little bit of sadness,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday. “We know the type of guy he is, and he shows it, too, by standing up and accepting full responsibility for what he puts in his body, regardless of how he got it or why he did it.

“In some ways it’s a lesson for these guys about being diligent, and in some ways it’s a lesson about accountability. But ultimately, it’s a lesson we weren’t looking to learn right now.”

As Hahn mentioned, Castillo has apologized profusely. He talked with Hahn and Renteria after finding out about his suspension Wednesday night. He apologized to his teammates Thursday morning. And he released an apologetic statement through the MLB Player’s Association on Thursday.

“The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made,” the statement read, in part. “I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize.”

Hahn was quick to point out that Castillo’s transgression will have little to no effect on the organization’s rebuilding effort, and with catching prospects Zack Collins and Seby Zavala looking strong in the minor leagues, that’s not difficult to believe.

But there are several important things that Castillo was brought in this past winter to accomplish that could impact the White Sox situation past the next three months and into coming seasons. Castillo was acquired specifically to help a young pitching staff transition to the major league level. His experience as a veteran backstop was valuable to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and the team’s other young arms at the major league level.

“One of the first things Welington said to (Renteria) and I last night is how large a part of the disappointment he has in himself, and the root of his regret to us, is that he understood that part of his role in the clubhouse is to be a role model and to help develop some of these players,” Hahn said. “For the next three months, he won’t be available to do that.

“Each player plays a certain role. In terms of what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term, this really is not going to have much of an impact at all. From a short-term standpoint, it’s going to stink. It’s disappointing in terms of the options that we’re running out there and our chances to win each and every night, and for the next three months these players won’t get the benefit of the wisdom that Welington brings.”

Additionally, Castillo’s contract — which includes a team option for the 2020 season — allowed the White Sox a safety net in the developments of Collins and Zavala. If the contention window is supposed to open in 2020, and if Collins and/or Zavala weren’t quite ready to be a major league catcher by then, Castillo could provide the answer at that position.

Should this suspension change the White Sox minds in that department, there’s a possibility of the team having a hole at catcher in the next couple years.

“He’ll be back here in late August after the 80 games are served, and obviously he remains part of our plans for 2019,” Hahn said. “He’ll have an opportunity to make an impact on these young players in a positive way going forward.”

And on top of it all, Castillo is a good player, a good hitter who was helping the White Sox offense. The wins haven’t been frequent, but without Castillo’s bat in the lineup for three months — he hit .333 in his last 15 games, while replacement Omar Narvaez has a .180 batting average this season — a season Hahn has described as “the hardest part of the rebuild” is bout to get harder.

Losing Castillo might not seem like the difference between a win and a loss on most nights, but the White Sox now face a downgrade at the catching position. And now the waiting game gets even more difficult while Collins and Zavala continue to develop in the minors.

“This is another example, as I’ve said from the start of this whole process, guys are not coming to Chicago because there’s a need in Chicago. They’re coming to Chicago because their development, we feel, is essentially complete at the minor league level and it’s time for them to accomplish what they can in Chicago,” Hahn said. “This catching situation is going to be no different, whether it’s Seby or Zack or (Kevan Smith) when he’s healthy. It’s going to be based upon how the long-term development of each of those players is best served, not necessarily by, ‘Hey, we need a catcher tomorrow in Chicago.’”

The White Sox will need a catcher for a lot of tomorrows while Castillo serves his suspension.

White Sox add Dustin Garneau to help thin catching corps in wake of Welington Castillo suspension

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USA TODAY

White Sox add Dustin Garneau to help thin catching corps in wake of Welington Castillo suspension

Is this the White Sox solution at catcher while Welington Castillo serves his 80-game suspension?

The team announced it claimed Dustin Garneau off waivers from the Oakland Athletics just hours after Castillo’s suspension became official. The White Sox simultaneously placed Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day disabled list, freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster for Garneau, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

Garneau, 30, has 87 major league games under his belt thanks to stints with A’s and Colorado Rockies. He split time between those two clubs last season and slashed .188/.272/.313 with a pair of homers and nine RBIs in 126 plate appearances.

The White Sox found themselves with few options Thursday morning, when Castillo was suspended for use of a performance-enhancing drug. Alfredo Gonzalez was summoned from Charlotte to take Castillo’s spot, though he wasn’t the team’s first choice. Kevan Smith, who played plenty at the big league level in 2017, is on the disabled list with an ankle injury. Seby Zavala, who is having a terrific offensive season at Double-A Birmingham, is also injured, though he likely wouldn't have been promoted as he continues to develop into a possible catcher of the future alongside Zack Collins.

The lack of internal options sent the White Sox outside the organization, and while Garneau is heading to Charlotte, he could potentially be up soon to help new No. 1 Omar Narvaez behind the plate while Castillo sits out the next three months.