5 Questions with...CSN's Sarah Kustok

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5 Questions with...CSN's Sarah Kustok

Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesta rising star on the Chicago sports media scene whos dedicated work ethic shines nightly on Comcast SportsNets SportsNitea standout basketball star in high school and college whos been able to make a smooth and successful transition from athlete to broadcasterplus, she one of the nicest people youll ever meethere are 5 Questions withSARAH KUSTOK!

BIO: Sarah Kustok joined Comcast SportsNet in 2009 as a feature and field reporter on SportsNite, along with occasionally co-anchoring the program. She was a sideline reporter for ESPN's college and high school remote football telecasts, as well as handled color analystsideline reporting duties for men's and women's college basketball. Kustok grew up in southwest suburban Orland Park, where she was a four-year varsity starter in both volleyball and basketball at Carl Sandburg High School. Sarah enjoyed a stellar college career at DePaul (2000-2004), where she was a team captain and later an assistant coach for Doug Bruno. At the end of her DePaul playing career, Sarah ranked 7th on the all-time three-point field goal list and 4th all-time in three-point field goal percentage. She graduated with a degree in CommunicationMedia Studies from DePaul University in 2004 and also completed her master's degree from DePaul in Corporate and Multicultural Communication last year.

1) CSNChicago.com: Sarah, as you can attest, its very common in our business to see numerous former athletes make the transition into sports broadcasting. As someone who has excelled in athletics for many years, what would be your biggest piece of advice for any athlete out there looking to get into the media biz and, a follow-up questionwhat would you say has been your biggest challenge so far in this early stage of your on-air career?

Kustok: The biggest piece of advice I would give to any athlete looking to get into the media industry is to take the same approach used for excelling in athletics and apply it to the challenge of breaking into this business. Whether it is sports, media, medicine, finance, you name itthe ability to work through adversity, embrace your own weaknesses, and find a way to make yourself better at whatever it is you are striving to become is essential. Competitiveness and athletics go hand in hand. It is much the same with media industry. More often than not, it is those people who are tirelessly working to improve their game that separate themselves from others. And with any dream, its a lot easier to chase it down if you are passionate enough to soak up all the good and bad that come during your journey to reach it.

Anyone in this business would tell you that challenges are present on a daily basis. I believe the biggest, though, is finding a way to truly be you. There are so many talented, successful media personalities in this city (particularly at Comcast SportsNet) that I love to watch, listen to, and learn from. They have become the best because of an ability to let their true personality shine through their work. It doesnt mean everyone will love you, but if you are genuine and real, it is much easier to be satisfied at the end of the day.

2) CSNChicago.com: There had to have been plenty of competition growing up in the Kustok household. Your dad Al played football at Illinois and your brother Zak will likely go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Northwestern history. Was athletics an intense part of your upbringing or was it something your parents wouldve been fine with if you chose not be involved in sports?

Kustok: From as far back as I can remember until today, all my parents ever wanted for Zak and I was for us to be happy. It just so happened that athletics always seemed to be the thing that I couldnt get enough of. Both Zak and I were blessed enough to have parents who supported us at every step of our athletic careers and made sure it was our own love to play sports that kept us involved. Just as important, I was fortunate enough to have an older brother that let me follow him around EVERYWHERE and always let me be a part of games as long as I could hold my own. Without him, I never would have achieved the success Ive found in sports or in life. By his actions, I learned more about perseverance, grit and hard work than anyone could have tried to explain to me. He may have been my best friend, but Zak had no problem giving me a black eye, bloody nose, or broken finger if it meant winning. So yes, it was intense, but those days of growing up playing sports have created some of the best memories that will always make us laugh.

3) CSNChicago.com: What broadcaster (past or present) do you admire most and can honestly make you say had a genuine impact on why you chose to get into sports journalism?

Kustok: I have always been and continue to be impressed by Robin Roberts. A big part of my initial intrigue about her work had to do with her athletic skill on the basketball court, but the more I watched her on ESPN and now Good Morning America, I am enamored with her ability to connect with people. Robin not only does her research and clearly knows her stuff, but also has a way of expressing a deep love for her work, which makes you sincerely interested in what she has to say.

4) CSNChicago.com: When youre not in the studio or covering an event, whats your favorite summertime activity in Chicago?

Kustok: Where do I begin?! I may be biased, but in my opinion, theres not a place that beats summertime in Chicago. The street fests and concerts are always a blast, but more than anything, I just love to be around the lake and enjoy how truly beautiful this city really is.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you can sit down and interview any non-sports related individual in the history of mankind, who would it be and why?

Kustok: Thomas Edison. It is difficult to really wrap your head around the ways in which he influenced and shaped the world we live in today. It would not only be fascinating to hear of the countless inventions and devices that he created, but where the formulation of his ideas even began. Creativity is inspiring to me and a mind like his that was constantly questioning everything around him would be amazing to dig into. Edison is a hero for his inventions, yet found a way to fearlessly overlook failure upon failure until he got things right. A conversation with a man like that would be a dream.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Any upcoming appearances you want to promote Sarah? CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it!

Kustok: I am truly honored for the second year in a row to emcee the Alzheimers Association Memory Rock event on Thursday, September 2nd, from 7-10pm at Joes Sports Bar on Weed Street. Alzheimers is a disease that affects over 5 million Americans and is the 7th leading cause of death in our country. Memory Rock is an opportunity to join together and help fight this disease. Plus, the night itself is a blast featuring live music, raffles, cocktails and a room filled with some really great people! I encourage everyone to click on the link below for more information and to purchase your tickets in advance. Look forward to seeing everyone there!

Kustok LINKS:

Alzheimers Association Memory Rock event on Thu, Sept. 2

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only six years after they had the “best farm system of all time,” the Kansas City Royals see a bright future ahead for the upstart White Sox.

Several current Kansas City players who graduated from that farm system and led the Royals to a 2015 World Series title and manager Ned Yost all said they’re intrigued by how quickly the White Sox have built up their minor league talent.

Through four major trades and the signing of international free agent Luis Robert, the White Sox boast a system that features 10 top-10 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com. Baseball America ranks eight White Sox prospects in their top 100. While the system isn’t yet ready to compete with the 2011 Royals for the unofficial title of best ever, it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

“Have you seen what they’ve gotten back from tearing it down?” Yost said. “MLB ranks the top 100 prospects. Most teams have one or two. I don’t think we have any. They have 10. They’ve done a phenomenal job of restocking their system with incredibly talented young players.”

Not everything is identical between how these organizations built their farms.

The Royals headed into 2011 with nine top-100 prospects and five in the top 20 alone (Eric Hosmer 8, Mike Moustakas 9, Wil Myers 10, John Lamb 18, Mike Montgomery 19). The Kansas City Star in 2016 reviewed the best-ranked systems of all-time and determined by a point value system (100 points for the No. 1 prospect and one point for the No. 100 prospect) that the 2011 club was better than all others with 574 points.

But that group was the byproduct of a painstaking stretch in which the Royals averaged 96 losses from 2004-12. The slower path taken by Kansas City allowed its young core to develop and learn how to play together in the minors. As pitcher Danny Duffy noted, “we went to the playoffs every year.”

They won at Rookie-Burlington, Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha took home three titles. Working together was a big key to the team’s success at the major league level, said catcher Salvador Perez.

“We didn’t come from different teams,” Perez said. “We all came from here. We had a young team together. We learned how to win and win in the big leagues.

“We learned how to win together, play together and play for the team. It was really important.”

The only time the Royals didn’t win was at Advance-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, Duffy said.

“You learn how success feels and how some failure feels,” Duff said. “We lost in Wilmington and you would have thought the world was coming to an end.”

According to the Star, the Royals haven’t had much recent competition for the best system. Until now.

The 2006 Diamondbacks accrued 541 points and the 2000 Florida Marlins had 472. The 2015 Cubs scored 450 points.

After the addition of Blake Rutherford on Tuesday (the No. 36 prospect on BA’s current top 100 list), the White Sox have 483 points. But the 2017 Atlanta Braves are even better with 532 points, the third-highest total of all-time.

The White Sox farm system has created excitement among the fan base that had wavered in recent years. Not everyone is on board, but the majority seems to be and that can create hysteria.

“We had people at the games who were super excited about the wave of prospects,” Duffy said. “Obviously they have a stacked system over there, very similar to what we had coming up. There was a lot of excitement. It was crazy.”

But excitement didn’t immediately translate into victories. Though a fair amount of the 2011 class graduated to the majors by later that season, the Royals didn’t get on track in the big leagues for a few years.

It wasn’t until the second half of 2013 that the Royals got going. The 2014 club ended a 29-year playoff drought with a wild-card berth that led to an American League pennant. They followed that up with a World Series title in 2015. Had it not been for a Herculean effort by Madison Bumgarner, Kansas City might have had consecutive titles.

Still, getting there takes time.

“The first thing you had to do was get them here,” Yost said. “Experience has taught me that it’s generally 2 1/2 years before they can get to a point where they can compete. They just have to gain that experience at the major league level because it’s definitely a much more difficult style of play up here. The talent is just so incredibly good that it takes a while for talent or players to adjust to where they’re productive. It just takes time then being able to go out and play every single day.”

Even though that means the White Sox will experience difficult times the next few years, Duffy and Co. think it’s worth the wait. While Duffy imagines losing Jose Quintana and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier isn’t fun, he has a good sense what is headed this direction.

“Losing Quintana stings, but they got a king’s ransom back,” Duffy said. “It’s the way of the game. But they’re going to have a really good time in the next few years.”