Big Victories: A journey to Cambodia

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Big Victories: A journey to Cambodia

Im in Cambodia.

Thats what Ive been reminding myself since I arrived here on Saturday night.

Actually, its come more in the form of a question:

Im in Cambodia??

Ive been told this is the best way to sum up your first 24 hours in this far-off land, a country bordering Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, a place over 8,700 miles away from home.

To get here, the trip began with a 13-hour flight from Chicago to Seoul, South Korea.  After a three-hour layover, there was another five-hour flight to Cambodia. The time difference? 12 hours ahead. As I write this, its 4:36am in Chicago. All of you are probably fast asleep. Me? Im waiting at the Siem Reap airport to board a final flight to Phnom Penh, amazed that I can actually remember my name.

Chuck, right?  

Its been an exhausting first 24 hours, but worth every second of it.

The reason for this extraordinary journey is due to the work of two remarkable human beings. Bill Smith is the longtime team photographer for the Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears. 10 years ago, while visiting Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Bill and his wife Lauren came across a vast garbage dump where impoverished children, some wearing tattered clothing, others nothing, were picking garbage for 25 cents a day.

The couple was left stunned, speechless.

Then, two thoughts entered their minds: How could this be happening in the 21st century? And what can we can do to help them?

The answers came in their combined mission to save as many kids as they can from living such a horrific existence.

In 2006, Smith and his longtime friend Joe ONeil, Senior Director of Ticket Operations for the Bulls, formed A New Day Cambodia, a foundation that has rescued over 100 children from the Phnom Penh garbage dump, providing food, shelter, education and a real first chance in life.

Despite coming to them with limited or no schooling, some children have since gone to college, others have gotten jobs in the workforce, while many between the ages of 8 and 21 currently live at the center, making remarkable progress.

Were here in Cambodia this week to see first-hand how Smiths foundation has forever changed the path of these childrens lives. Well also join Bill as he rescues more kids from the garbage dump.

Well have daily updates throughout the week here on CSNChicago.com. A full show will air on Comcast SportsNet at a later date.

It promises to be an inspiring journey.

Click here for more information on A New Day Cambodia.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle is more bad news for Cubs: ‘You can’t cry about it’

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

 

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”