Frankie O: Summer FUNdraiser

Frankie O: Summer FUNdraiser

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

The All-Star break is always welcome around my house: No games, which means Im not watching games on three TVs to get my roto fix. And it also means Im not looking at my phone for updates every five minutes for the games I dont have on! Its always good to take some time to recharge and get ready for what Im sure will be a long second half. (Im really starting to wonder if all the time I spend scavenging two different waiver wires for anything that can help my plight is good for my overall health!)

Baseball is never far away though. It will always be the soundtrack for every summer as long as I live. The game took a hold of me a long time ago and wont let go. Unfortunately, at my age, almost all of my interaction comes from watching others play. But Im OK with that. As long as one of my kids wants to have a catch with their old man once in a while, Im fine.

This year, for the first time I can remember, I didnt watch the Home Run Derby. It was fun in the beginning, but lately its been like watching paint dry. Think the NBA Slam Dunk contest, but only over two full hours. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. The Josh Hamilton thing in Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago was cool, but in the convoluted rules of the contest, he didnt even win. I know chicks dig the long ball, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Then the game was not much better. After the NL went up 5-0 in the top of the first, most of the bar tuned out the game. So much for all the hype! As a fan, I still enjoy the whole process, but I think I enjoy finding out whos in and whos out more than the game itself. I also get a kick out of when they bring in the old-timers, also known as the heroes of my long ago youth. George Brett looks like he could still hit .300. There are still some great individual matchups, but its still an exhibition, no matter what Mr. Selig is trying to sell you.

And add to it, there are no Thursday games this year so it was a full four-day break. Am I the only one who thinks it feels longer than that? This week TGIF is really that.

Something that really has me excited and was something that I focused on during my free time is a fundraiser that Im helping organize. I know reading that word makes some folks eyes glaze over, but Id appreciate if you read on.

I know its hard to go 10 minutes in this life without anyone asking for something, but I would hope we can all find at least one thing that helps us give back. If we all find one, trust me, we would all be better off. It doesnt take much, and the reward, not that one is being sought, is always the payoff.

My feeling on such an endeavor is that, if you plan an event, just make it fun. I try not to focus on the overall financial aspect, since I do believe that every little bit helps.

Most of all, it is always about the interactions of every one participating that Im most into and aware of. (Once a bartender, always a bartender!) In other words: I want everyone to feel great about coming, have a good time, and realize how much their simple act of kindness means to so many others.

As Ive written many times, my life changed forever once my first child was born. It opened my eyes to a whole new world that I had never seen before. (It also opened up a whole new audience for stories to entertain with at the bar. Who knew there were so many parents out there?!)

Having a child born with some issues opened them even more. In the beginning there were a lot of sleepless nights and unanswered questions. You know the kind of questions that I mean. But not being the negative sort, and also realizing this situation was never going away, I got back to reality and tried to deal with everything head-on. Of course, that is my way and not necessarily how everyone would react. I completely understand anyone that struggles with what seems like the worst news possible. It really is tough to grasp. Maybe in a way, my own forward progress was a bit of denial, but in the situation, you do whatever it takes.

As I mentioned here last week (and several other times before) the beacon for me and my family was our doctor and the organization that she has been a major part of: The Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types. (FIRST)( www.firstskinfoundation.org.) What my son, and just about every other affected associated with the foundation, has is very rare, at least as a measure of the general population. The number in this country could be in the multiple millions. The meaning of this last sentence is that funding for cures and research, not to mention people with the ability to do the work, is not as abundant as a lot of other diseases or disorders. The word Ive sometimes heard used for Ichthyosis disorders is orphan. Meaning there are not a lot of national entities devoted to them.

In this case it means that anyone connected in any way to anyone who has been affected by these disorders has to do all they can to help raise funds to support the organization that is fighting to better their lives every day.

FIRST has positively affected the lives of everyone that I have met that is associated with the organization. And Im not just talking about people like myself, who were forced to join!

Think about that. That is pretty cool.

That comes from the positive energy being created by a relatively small group of people who want to help people and make a difference in the lives of others.

You can imagine the guilt I feel when Im with these folks and mention how much my time spent on my fantasy team is paying off!

So this is where I get to the point. (Insert trumpeted fanfare here!)

I want to help out and raise money, and in the spirit of who I am, Im trying to do it in one of my favorite settings. Thats right, at a baseball game.

The Chicago White Sox have been gracious enough to offer an opportunity where, in a group of tickets that they are holding for FIRST, they will give the foundation back half the amount of every ticket that we are able to sell. How cool is that?

For me this is the perfect fundraiser. It gives family and friends time to spend together at a ballpark and at the same time doing something very important.

I envision a night with kids wearing gloves hoping to catch a ball from their (new) favorite slugger, laughter coming from groups of adults socializing (or social drinking) while watching Chicagos FIRST (Coincidence?!!) place team, or a weight-challenged father dealing with mustard drippings on his previously white, Sox jersey, from the consumption of one too many hot dogs because he is driven crazy by the smell of sauted onions as he enters the stadium. (Was that really one sentence? Boo-ya!)

So if youre not doing anything on the evening of Wednesday, August 8, (8-8-12) get a hold of me through the information below, or through FIRST, and come join us for a game and a good time.

I know for a fact, when you leave the game, youll be glad you were there. It always feels good to be a part of something special.

Hope to see you there!!

FIRST NIGHT AT THE WHITE SOX

Wednesday, August 8th @ 7:10 pm vs. the Kansas City Royals
Bleacher seats, 34 each, with half the money being donated to FIRST!
Contact: Frank Osowski Frankieo@harrycarays.com

FIRST is a registered 501(c)(3)nonprofit entity.

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”