Mundelein's Borucki: Like father, like son

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Mundelein's Borucki: Like father, like son

Ray Borucki is proud of his son Ryan, who has emerged as the leading major league prospect in Illinois this spring. And he hopes the hard-throwing pitcher will enjoy all of the thrills that he experienced while he was a young and promising baseball player.

Ray was a star second basemanpitcher on Niles West's 1975 state championship team. He pitched a no-hitter to beat Springfield 13-0 in the state semifinals. It was one of 19 no-hitters in the history of the state finals. And it was the third state championship team produced by legendary Niles West coach Jim Phipps.

After the season, Borucki wasn't drafted. But he received 6,000 for signing with the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school.

"Everybody's dream is to be a professional baseball player," he said.

The Phillies assigned him to their minor league club in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was allotted 6 a day for meal money. The team took buses everywhere. He played with future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and one-time Cub center fielder Bobby Dernier.

He played in the minor leagues for five years, first for the Phillies, then for the Detroit Tigers. He never made it to the big leagues.

"But it was the greatest time of my life outside of winning the state title in high school," Ray said. "I enjoyed my teammates and the relationships. The money wasn't big. But you played because you loved it. We won two league titles. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything."

Now Ray hopes his son will experience even more success in professional baseball. As a 6-foot-4 lefty with a 92 mph fastball, he has the kind of potential that major league scouts are looking for in a young prospect. Thirty scouts showed up at one of his recent outings. He is projected to be chosen in the first 10 rounds in the upcoming major league draft.

His father has worked an 11-to-7 midnight shift for the last 16 years so he can coach baseball, pitch batting practice to his son and attend all of his games. "It's worth every minute," Ray said.

Because his son was so small -- he was a 5-foot-9, 130-pounder as a sophomore -- Borucki never thought he would be big enough to be a pitcher. Both of them thought he would be a first baseman and a hitter. So Ray began pitching batting practice to Ryan when he was five years old.

"As much as he loves to pitch, nothing compares to the time I have thrown to him in batting practice over the years," Ray said. "He has taken more batting practice than anyone. What has been great about Ryan is he never once said he didn't feel like going to have batting practice."

Even though Ryan has grown to 6-foot-4 and become a pitching prospect, not a hitting prospect, his father continues to toss batting practice. Ryan continues to play first base when he isn't pitching. And his continues to be one of his team's leading batsmen with a .343 average. He even takes batting practice while he is sitting out with a sore elbow.

In fact, his father blames himself for his son's injury and his current 10-day layoff. Ryan came up sore while pitching a no-hitter against Cary-Grove last week. Rather than come out of the game, he stayed in to compete the no-hitter.

"I threw a no-hitter in the state semifinals in 1975 and I think part of the reason he didn't come out of the game was because he wanted to say he had pitched a no-hitter," Ray said. "So I think it is partly my fault that he has to sit out for a while."

Father and son have a great bond. They are best friends. "To watch him work this hard, to come on in the last year to achieve what he has...well, I'm really proud of him," Ray said.

Big Ten preview: Michigan's pass-catchers should make life easy for new QB

Big Ten preview: Michigan's pass-catchers should make life easy for new QB

With Jim Harbaugh & Co. down in the submarine, there’s no way of knowing who will be the team’s starting quarterback when the season starts in a little more than a week. And if Harbaugh’s secretive ways are to continue, we might not know who won this offseason’s quarterback competition until the Michigan offense takes the field.

But the good news for whichever of the two candidates wins the job is that he will not be hurting for weapons in the passing game.

Last season, Jake Rudock made the transition from Iowa to Michigan look easy, doing great things as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback. But his stay in Ann Arbor was always going to last just one year, meaning the race to replace him was on.

John O’Korn and Wilton Speight are the two guys who are competing to be this year’s Rudock. O’Korn sat out last season after transferring in from Houston, where he threw for 3,117 yards as a freshman in 2013 before losing his starting job the following season when he threw eight interceptions in the season’s first five games. Speight, meanwhile, spent his sophomore season as Rudock’s backup, appearing in six games and most notably leading a second-half comeback in Michigan’s win over Minnesota, throwing a touchdown pass on the game-winning drive.

Both guys have an advantage Rudock didn’t: They’ve spent a year in the system, learning the offense and getting ready for their shot. They’ll hope to have the same success Rudock did thanks to a little more preparation.

“The good thing about it is the quarterbacks have been here,” wide receiver Amara Darboh said during Big Ten Media Days. “They got a chance to see Jake Rudock do it, so hopefully they learned from him and mimic the things he was doing and can translate that to this season.

“I think it’ll be a big difference because they’re comfortable with the playbook and all that. Especially as quarterback, you have to know what everyone’s doing, you have to be ready to tell other people and read defenses and all that. So that’s going to help a lot.”

But the biggest thing that will help out either O’Korn or Speight is the guys they’ll be throwing to.

Darboh and fellow receiver Jehu Chesson are two of the best wideouts in the Big Ten, and together they form one of the best tandems in the country. Darboh caught 58 passes last season for 727 yards and five touchdowns, while Chesson caught 50 passes for 764 yards and nine touchdowns.

“They’re the best in the country, honestly. Best duo in the country,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “Those two guys headlining it, they challenge me to be better, the best cornerback I can be every day or they’re going to expose me every day.”

With arguing their collective value to the Wolverines not really a debate, the only thing left to discuss is which is better. And even Harbaugh is going back and forth on that one.

“Amara Darboh, I would say he's our top receiver right now,” Harbaugh said. “And as we went through the season last year, I thought that was Jehu Chesson. And then Amara surged during spring ball there, and they're in a very good-hearted competition there to be our best receiver.”

But as good as those two guys are, neither is even the most-hyped pass-catcher on the team. That title belongs to tight end Jake Butt, who made the decision to return for his senior season and is being projected as one of the best tight ends in college football.

Last season, Butt caught 51 passes for 654 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning All-Big Ten First Team honors and the conference’s Tight End of the Year Award.

“The main reason I came back is I think we have a chance at having a special season this year,” Butt said. “I got a little taste of what that could be last year. The first two years, I didn’t really get to experience any of the reasons that I came to Michigan — that was to win and win big. I think we have a chance. I can feel the momentum start to build up a little bit going into camp to achieve some of those goals.”

With all three of these guys — not to mention an experienced offensive line and an established running game — there should be little trouble for whoever the new quarterback ends up being. And if O’Korn or Speight proves as capable as Rudock was last season, then the Michigan offense could end up being pretty high flying.

Huskers unveil new 'Husker Chrome' alternate uniforms to be worn vs. Northwestern

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Huskers unveil new 'Husker Chrome' alternate uniforms to be worn vs. Northwestern

Michigan is now Jordan.

Wisconsin is now Under Armour.

But Nebraska is still outfitted by adidas, and the company came up with some new alternate threads for the Huskers this fall.

On Tuesday, Nebraska unveiled the "Husker Chrome" alternate uniform, which the team will wear in its Sept. 24 game against Northwestern in Evanston.

These uniforms are actually pretty cool looking and certainly less outrageous than some of the designs adidas has whipped up for the Huskers in the past.

Here's part of the official description:

"The special edition uniform is centered around a pristine white colorway with metallic accents to create a bold alternate look for the Cornhuskers. The modernized style features metallic red numbering with metallic chrome outlining on the jersey and is accented with metallic chrome stripes on both the jersey and the pants. Additional detailing includes an oversized, metallic red bold 'N' logo that seamlessly aligns with the pant stripes.

"As a tribute to the traditional aesthetic of the Cornhuskers football program, the helmet features a metallic red 'N' logo on the sides and is accented with player numbers featured in metallic red and metallic chrome outlining on the back of the helmet, showcasing the Star City’s ability to shine."

And here are some more pictures of the uniforms included with Nebraska's announcement:

 

 

 

 

'Owies,' injuries, and the Bears trying to fuse together for Week 3 preseason

'Owies,' injuries, and the Bears trying to fuse together for Week 3 preseason

Bears coach John Fox draws much the same distinction as your Mom might have, between real injuries and “owies,” those nicks and things that she could put a band-aid on and you would be back out playing before you’d missed a turn at bat.

Owies won’t keep players out of the Bears’ Sept. 11 opener in Houston against the Texans, so conclusions about whether it’s an injury or an owie don’t mean much at this point when thinking ahead for Week 1 availability.

But the seemingly endless drumbeat of players missing practice time – typically more than a dozen out of 90 on any given practice day – takes players out of the sessions they need to become parts of a whole on offense, defense or special teams. It means, for instance, that rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, working to master pass-rush moves at the NFL level, misses time to work on those desperately needed moves against tackles and tight ends.

This time last year, linebackers Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were coming off injuries that ended their 2014 seasons. They were established veterans and it still took time, arguably the better part of a half season, for them to come all the way back physically, but also to integrate fully into the scheme with teammates.

[RELATED: Porter balancing job as 'coach' and starting CB]

Now with one of the NFL’s youngest rosters, the Bears could more than some other more veteran teams feel the effects of that lost time and chances to develop cohesion.

Fox has seen this situation before, and every preseason has injury stories. “I think it's pretty much the same in the other 31 [NFL] cities,” Fox said. “It's been about the same for me the last 15 years. So there's a difference between injuries and owies, so we've had a couple injuries and now it's just about getting everybody healthy for Houston.”

The sick-bay list by the time the Bears visit Houston is not expected to include guard Kyle Long, tight end Zach Miller, running back Jeremy Langford or nickel corner Bryce Callahan. But Long (shoulder) was working off to the side with right tackle Bobby Massie on footwork, not at full speed in practice. Callahan (hamstring) was just doing some light running, not in pads and not in concert with the rest of the nickel secondary projected to include him. Miller (concussion) was in a no-contact red jersey that called attention to his history of injury susceptibility.

They and others are not in any sort of game-week schedule.

“Everything is a schedule,” Fox said. “I don’t care who you are or where it is at home or at the office, there's a routine and a schedule. You like getting guys acclimated to the point of where we've got a 12 o'clock kickoff for a preseason game, which is a typical Sunday kickoff for us in our routine so I think the more you can expose guys to scheduling, kind of what you're expecting in the preparation, I think the better.”

Injuries, and owies, are doing that schedule no favors.