5 Questions with...WGN Radio's Mike McConnell

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5 Questions with...WGN Radio's Mike McConnell

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 city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite 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 guest ... a standout talk radio veteran whose vast knowledge of politics, pop culture, sports, and numerous topical issues affecting not only the city of the Chicago, but the entire country, has quickly made him a must-listen during his brief, two-year stint on WGN Radio 720 ... he's a man with an opinion who has no problem disagreeing with you on just about anything ... thankfully, he agreed to be a part of 5 Questions with ... MIKE McCONNELL!

BIO: Mike McConnell joined WGN Radio in August 2010 and can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

McConnell previously hosted middays for WLW-AM 700 in Cincinnati, one of the country's most respected radio stations, for 25 years. He also hosted the nationally syndicated "Weekend with Mike McConnell" for seven years. Known for his quick wit and common-sense approach to discussions, his show features a broad range of topics from in the news social issues to the oddities of everyday life. "I play it down the middle. If you're too far on one side of the middle, you're missing half the show," says McConnell of his style.

McConnell grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended the University of Dayton before starting his radio career in Cincinnati.

He enjoys everything there is to do in the great outdoors along with looking things up and being right all the time.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mike, you're coming up on your two-year anniversary at WGN Radio after spending 25 at WLW-AM in Cincinnati and were glad you're here! Now that you've been in Chicago a couple of years, what is the one thing about our city that has been a pleasant surprise to you ... and the one thing that has disappointed you?

McConnell:

Positive surprise about Chicago

I'd been to Chicago about a dozen times, mainly to watch baseball, so I didn't pay much attention to the where and how people live. So when you're thinking about moving, I thought my choices were high rise vs. suburbs. I'm not much of a high-rise guy and I don't like a commute. So the neighborhood situation is probably the most pleasant surprise. I have a 10-minute commute to downtown from Lincoln Park. And then there are all the other neighborhoods with their own unique attractions and quirks that are worth checking out.

Down side of Chicago

I have restaurants across the alley from where I live and I'm sure their dumpsters smell great. If I was a rat, I'd want to live in my backyard too. The city has worked hard to stay ahead of the problem, but I think it's a losing battle. I've looked at buying my own rat traps but my rats would just wear them like a necklace.

2) CSNChicago.com: It looks like the City Council will be moving forward to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to partially decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Good move? Bad move? Your thoughts

McConnell: Good move. I don't think people stop to think how being busted for small amounts of drugs can drastically change someone's future. The President has admitted he's smoked pot and snorted coke when he was young. If he'd been busted like the 18,000 Chicagoans who are each year, would he be President of the U.S. today? No. Would he have been a Senator from Illinois? No. Would he have been admitted to Harvard? I don't know. But the point is we've been drastically altering people's futures over youthful indiscretions for far too long.

3) CSNChicago.com: You recently went on a tour of Wrigley Field with WGN Radio contest winners. What was that experience like for you personally and, from what you witnessed, what is your opinion on if major renovations are actually needed to keep this historic landmark going strong for years to come?

McConnell: I've done the tour at least three times. Twice with friends from out of town. And I recommend it for any baseball fan, not just a Cubs fan. I've watched Cubs baseball on WGN since I first got cable in the early 80s. There's always that thrill of seeing something in person for the first time that you've seen on television for years. And having a chance to sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was maybe the highlight of my sports fan life.

I'm no architect, but fans have come to expect more amenities than Wrigley Field provides today. The old scoreboard has to stay, but traditionalists have to allow for more electronic signage elsewhere. Update and expand the restrooms, and add a restaurant somehow. If you do the tour, you'll be amazed at what visiting teams get for a locker room. It's pretty much a closet. And the fact that the Bears played there all those years, and visiting NFL teams used the same room, leaves you wondering how everyone on the roster fit inside. They must have changed in shifts. The average fan won't care much for the quality of the luxury suites, but I've been in a few around the league and they don't measure up either. They're not even half the size on average, and don't have restrooms. And lastly, the Cubs have to figure out how they can sell more signage without messing with the rooftop experience. The rooftops are a larger part of the Wrigley atmosphere than perhaps the Cubs would want to believe.

4) CSNChicago.com: As an avid book reader, what are your top can't-miss suggestions you can pass along to us for a good summer read this year?

McConnell: Not to dodge a question, but I read so much for work that I don't have much time for leisurely reading. Last week, I had three books to read along with my usual prep work. So it gets to be that a day I don't have to read is like a day off.

For me, the summer is for getting outside, playing golf, soaking in the sun, watching a ballgame or 10. Doing all those things you wish you could do from October to May. Watch something mindless on TV like "Wipeout." Drink beer on a sidewalk. Hit the festivals. Go to the beach. Ride a bike, take a walk. I could write a book about killing time in the summer. The last book I read for pleasure was Michael Crichton's "Timeline." It's about time travel back to the middle ages, and the book was a lot better than the movie.

5) CSNChicago.com: Your bio states your love for the great outdoors ... what was your most memorable outdoors experience ever and what was it that made it so special to you?

McConnell: For an adrenaline rush in the great outdoors, it's hard to beat white water rafting. A favorite spot for me is the Gauley River in West Virginia. I've done it about 10 times. Nothing beats putting your raft in at the base of the dam at 7 in the morning with torrents of water coming through the base of the dam, setting up the best rapids this side of the Colorado River. I've been dumped out of a raft on two occasions. You feel like a sock in the washer and gain a whole new appreciation for water and nature. If you have half a mind to try it, look up my friends 'the Rivermen' -- fantastic guides and accommodations.

Less stressful, but the most spectacular natural setting I've seen is Machu Picchu in Peru. I went about three years ago. You can hike all or part of the Inca Trail -- tough at high altitude. And climbed Huayna Picchu (if you Google a photo of Machu Picchu, it's the tall peak that's always shown in the background) -- its the greatest view on earth.

McConnell LINKS:

WGN Radio 720 official Mike McConnell page

Mike McConnell on Facebook

Mike McConnell on Twitter

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 
 
"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."