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

No need for Cubs to overreact when best years should be in front of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell

No need for Cubs to overreact when best years should be in front of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell

There’s no need to overreact when the injuries pile up and the Cubs lose 6-of-7 games in June, because Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are still possibly years away from their best seasons in an organization loaded with young talent.
 
Bryant and Russell have been such integral parts since debuting in April 2015 that it's hard to remember they're still around three-to-five years away from their prime. They're also in a perfect situation to keep developing, not having to worry about carrying the weight of the franchise on their shoulders, the way Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro used to feel those responsibilities.
 
The pressure is spread out among a young core, a battle-tested group of veterans and a manager that loves the spotlight. All of that can help explain why each player has avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" that sometimes plagues second-year players in the big leagues.
 
"Last year, I thought both of them fought through some really different moments their first year up," Joe Maddon said. "And that's what it's really all about. The sophomore slump, for me, is where the league adjusts to you, and then you adjust back to the league. That's the definition."
 
Bryant currently has an OPS that’s 19 points higher than his 2015 numbers, while Russell's OPS is 23 points higher entering play Monday, and both second-year players have seen major improvement in important areas.
 
Bryant led the league with 199 strikeouts last season, but has seen his strikeout percentage drop from 30.6 percent to 23 percent this season. He's on track for about 162 strikeouts in 2016.
 
Russell, meanwhile, has experienced just an incremental decrease in strikeout percentage (from 28.5 to 27.2 percent), but he has seen a nice jump in walk rate (from 8 percent in 2015 to 11.2 percent this season). Despite drawing only one free pass in his last eight games, Russell is on track for 68 walks, which would've ranked 12th in the National League overall last season and first among shortstops. 
 
"The guys that don't adjust back quickly enough really have an extended period of negative moments," Maddon said. "I think they learned a lot last year. They made a lot of adjustments. Both of them made swing adjustments last year. And that, I think, is permitting their success this year.
 
"Addison's propensity to get big hits is unbelievable, and now he's using the whole field. He's not chasing balls out of the strike zone. Those are the adjustments he had to learn how to do last year when he was going badly, and now he's doing them.
 
"They're both going to hit a bad stretch, there's no question. But I think they're better able to handle that based on their experience from last year."
 
Bryant has settled in as one of the premier offensive threats in the game by following up his 2015 campaign (26 homers, 99 RBI) with a pace for 39 homers and 112 RBI.
 
In spring training, he said he considered 2016 an extension of his rookie season, just with a three-month break off in between. But as the regular season hit, he took that sort of thinking to another gear.
 
"I feel a lot more focused this whole year," Bryant said. "I don't know why. I don't know if it's a whole other level or just extra determination or the fact that I know we have a good team and we really want to win.
 
"I just feel really good up there. I feel like I'm having some quality at-bats. I'm doing all I can to help. I'm in a good spot."
 
Russell, meanwhile, has developed a reputation as a clutch hitter, posting a .429 average, 1.237 OPS and 23 RBI in 54 plate appearances in high-leverage situations. 
 
He's taken his game to another level at the biggest moments, not something often said about a 22-year-old with only 210 big-league games under his belt.
 
"Just a slow heart beat," Maddon said. "If you talk to the kid any time, he's always 'suavecito.' There's nothing really hurried about him. He's just got a great way about him.
 
"Again, he's going to keep getting better. Everybody's liking it when he's doing good. I'm here to tell you: He's going to get better."
 
However, Russell also just went through one of those bad stretches at the end of May/beginning of June where he hit .161 with a .569 OPS through 18 games, striking out 23 times. He felt he had gotten too passive during that span.
 
When the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field last week, Russell stared at strike three right down the middle during his first trip to the plate. He instantly made a mental adjustment to be more aggressive and responded with three straight hits to close out that first game.
 
"I've been feeling good," he said. "I've been seeing the ball well. Just taking an opportunity of swinging the bat at the right moment. I felt like early on in that game, watching two balls go by that I would normally do some damage with, I kind of took it hard and realized maybe I'm letting these pitches go too frequently. 
 
"I still feel more comfortable [overall this season]. It's just a daily grind, man. You're going to go through these funks. You're going to hit balls day-to-day that don't tend to fall. You normally don't want to change anything, so my approach is just to stay the same, and I want to take my walks as well."
 
The Cubs understand this is a long season filled with adversity, injuries and losing streaks. But if Bryant and Russell cannot be considered sophomores anymore, would their maturity and advanced approaches put them at a junior level?
 
"I think so. Favorite year in high school, by far," Maddon said. "You're totally free your junior year. SATs don't matter. PSATs are OK. I got my license, among other things. It was a really good time."

Cubs ace Jake Arrieta nominated for two ESPY Awards

Cubs ace Jake Arrieta nominated for two ESPY Awards

Jake Arrieta had a 2015 season for the ages, and was rewarded for it by winning the National League Cy Young Award, becoming the fifth player in Cubs history to accomplish that feat.

He's also been nominated for a pair of ESPY awards because of it: best breakthrough athlete and best MLB player.

After struggling to find his groove in four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (20-25, 5.46 ERA), Arrieta turned it around in Chicago, particularly in 2015 when he erupted for a 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA. 

The Cubs ace followed that up in 2016 by jumping out to a 9-0 start, and went nearly a calendar year without a loss.

He's also one of 26 pitchers in MLB history to have thrown more than one no-hitter, and did so 11 starts apart from each other.

The voting ends at 7 p.m. CT on July 13, when the ESPY Awards will take place. Cast your vote here.

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but Pau Gasol is hitting the market.

Gasol told the Bulls that he has declined his option for the 2016-17 season and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014.

In two seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 17.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds and made an All-Star appearance.