Bulls

Will Hickman choose the Cubs?

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Will Hickman choose the Cubs?

Blake Hickman is 6-foot-5 and weighs 210 pounds. When he enrolled at Simeon as a freshman, coaches tried to persuade him to play football and basketball. But he wasn't persuaded. He wanted to play baseball and it looks like his persistence is paying off. Just ask the Chicago Cubs.

"I knew coming out of eighth grade that I would go to Simeon," he said. "My brother went there and Simeon has a good baseball program. They tried to get me to play football and basketball but I knew baseball was my future and my favorite sport.

"I started to play baseball when I was 5 years old. The game is exciting to me. I didn't want to be like the others who played basketball. I felt I was good at baseball."

As a senior, Hickman is hearing more whispers in his ear. Some scouts insist his future is as a hard-throwing pitcher rather than a catcher. But Hickman loves to catch, he'd rather be behind the plate than in front of it.

"I watched my older brother Christian catch," said Hickman, whose brother currently is a shortstop at Alcorn State. "We had a game after him and I asked the coach: 'Can I catch?' I fell in love with it. I want to be a catcher. It's my favorite position.

"I know they want to see me on the mound. I have been timed at 93-94 miles per hour. I know they are looking for someone like that. If it doesn't work out, I'll play anywhere. I can't argue with them. I can't worry about what the scouts say. I just go out and play.

"But I want to be a catcher. I'm in every play. I can throw people out. I can control the pitching staff. When I'm on the mound, I feel OK. I just try to get a win for my team. In the end, my goal is to go to college and play pro ball."

Earlier this season, however, Hickman had reason to wonder if he'd ever play again. On April 5, in a spring game at Harrisburg, Illinois, he attempted to block a pitch in the dirt. The ball bounced up and struck him in the throat.

"The pain was indescribable," he recalled. "I wondered if I would play again this year or if I would ever talk again. I couldn't talk for three days."

Hickman was flown to a hospital in Evansville, Indiana, where he underwent an emergency tracheotomy. He missed 12 games. He had a run-scoring double in Simeon's 2-1 victory over Lane Tech for the Public League championship and contributed two doubles and a grand slam homer in a 19-0 victory over Phillips in the regional opener.

Now Hickman has another decision to make. He committed to Iowa in April of his junior year. "I felt that was the best school for me. The coaches really showed that they wanted me. They came at me the most," said Hickman, who chose Iowa over Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

But he was selected in the 20th round of the major league draft on June 5 by the Cubs. He was rated as the 18th best high school catcher in the nation according to one national survey. What will he do?

"He is one of the best players ever to come out of Simeon," said coach Leroy Franklin, who has had 25 players selected in the major league draft and sent more than 60 to college.

"Some scouts say he didn't hit like they wanted him to hit. I don't see anything wrong with his (catching) mechanics. I think he can catch at the next level.

"But he has a big frame and he can throw 95 mph so he is more valuable as a pitcher. There aren't many good catchers in the major leagues but the first thing the scouts want is a pitcher. He'll throw even faster in college. He just wants to play pro ball."

Sean Duncan of Chicago-based Prep Baseball Report thinks Hickman's future is on the mound.

"I really don't think he can catch," Duncan said. "On the mound, he is pretty interesting. He is extremely raw but the arm works. He's the wild card in the draft. Not a lot of people have seen him on the mound. The kid is 90-93 mph on the mound without any pitching background."

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

Chicago, IL (June 19, 2018) – With the Chicago Bulls holding TWO first round picks (#7 & #22 overall), NBC Sports Chicago is ready to deliver extensive multi-platform coverage of this Thursday night’s massively-anticipated 2018 NBA Draft highlighted by a special remote edition of “SportsTalk Live” from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at Advocate Center, live draft pick reaction cut-ins during the network’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts, a post-draft recap edition of “In the Loop,” full-blown digital & social media coverage, and much more!  Please note NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform 2018 NBA Draft coverage details:

THURSDAY, JUNE 21

  • 5:30 PM -- Special NBA Draft preview edition of “SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado” with host David Kaplan (@thekapman), and featuring NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls/NBA experts Mark Schanowski (@MarkSchanowski), Kendall Gill (@KendallG13), Will Perdue (@Will_Perdue32), and Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill), along with additional Bulls/NBA Draft experts LIVE from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at the Advocate Center. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 
  • Between 7:15-8:00 PM (time approx.) -- Live #7 pick reaction cut-ins during NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs (airing on NBC Sports Chicago) & White Sox (airing on NBC Sports Chicago+) telecasts featuring draft pick reaction/commentary via Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill. (NOTE: Live stream available at NBCSportsChicago.com)
  • 10:30 PM (time approx.) -- “In the Loop presented by GMC” - Featuring Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill, In the Loop will dive into detailed discussion surrounding the Bulls two first round picks, along with showcasing podium moment highlights/interviews featuring the new Bulls rookies from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, an overview of every trade made throughout the evening, plus, post-draft press conference coverage featuring Bulls Executive VP/Basketball Operations John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app)
  • NBCSportsChicago.com – NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill and digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide fans with thorough digital coverage of the Draft from the Advocate Center on Thursday night, which will include a Draft Night overview from Goodwill, along with his write-ups on if the Bulls top pick represents the team’s patience or haste in regards to the rebuilding process, plus a preview piece on “boom or bust” candidates who will likely be available at the #7 slot.  Strotman will be delivering real-time coverage/commentary throughout the night via NBC Sports Chicago’s always-entertaining Bulls Twitter handle @NBCSBulls.  For full NBA Draft content and videos, fans are urged to visit the network’s dedicated Bulls section at NBCSportsChicago.com/Bulls.  

Additional coverage highlights leading up to and throughout Draft Night…

  • SOCIAL MEDIA:
  • Leading up to the Draft, NBC Sports Chicago has created an “On The Clock” feature on both NBCSportsChicago.com and @NBCSBulls on Twitter. “On The Clock” is a breakdown of all the top first-round prospects and features player profile analysis via Schanowski, Goodwill, and NBC Sports college basketball expert Rob Dauster
  • On Thursday night, fans are also urged to check out a special Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) segment (starting the moment the 4th pick is on the clock) featuring reaction/commentary from Schanowski, Gill, and Perdue all the way through the Bulls #7 pick in the Draft (to also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com)…which will be followed by a fan-interactive segment as the trio respond to fan quetions.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will carry a live Twitter (@NBCSChicago) Periscope look-in to the John Paxson press conference later in the evening.
  • NBA Draft/Advocate Center “Sights & Sounds” moments on Thursday night will be provided via Snapchat (‘NBCSChicago’), along with additional photos/quick video offerings from ‘NBCSChicago’ through Instagram and Instagram Stories
  • PODCASTS: Fans also can look forward to a pair of NBA Draft-specific editions of NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “BullsTalk PODCAST” this week featuring Schanowski, Gill, Strotman, and additional special guests. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
     

NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago will announce its multi-platform Chicago Blackhawks/NHL Draft coverage details tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, June 20).

Jose Abreu still leading AL first basemen to start 2018 MLB All-Star Game

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu still leading AL first basemen to start 2018 MLB All-Star Game

Last week, Jose Abreu had a nearly 26,000 vote lead to start the 2018 MLB All-Star game over Red Sox first basemen Mitch Moreland. But now Abreu can take a brief sigh of relief on his quest to Washington.

MLB updated the American League fan ballot standings Tuesday for the Midsummer Classic. The Sox first baseman now has a lead on Moreland by over 138,000 votes.

This an encouraging sign for Abreu and White Sox faithful. Are fans taking notice of Abreu’s production this season?

His numbers this year include a slash line of .283/.338/.500. He also has 11 homers, 41 RBIs and 26 doubles. For his career, Abreu has a .299 average, 135 homers and 451 RBIs in 683 games.

He ranks first among AL first basemen in hits, doubles, RBIs, SLG and OPS. In other major offensive statistics, Abreu ranks near the top 10 for almost all of them.

Abreu is a cornerstone in the White Sox rebuild and if he does indeed start, it could be huge for his confidence and the team.

An All-Star nod this season would also mean a second career appearance in the game. He debuted in his rookie year (2014) as a reserve.

If fans indeed vote Abreu in as a starter, he would be the first position player to start for the White Sox since Frank Thomas did it back-to-back as a first baseman in 1994 and 1995.

There is still time to cast your votes to see Abreu start the Midsummer Classic. The AL will have another updated voting ballot June 26.