Kap: 'The Riz Kid' gets off to a strong start

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Kap: 'The Riz Kid' gets off to a strong start

Every high school team has that one gifted freshman who gets called up to varsity and threatens all the veterans positions.

Sometimes the elder statesmen label the youngster as an outcast, other times his talent is embraced and it pushes everyone else to perform better. Anthony Rizzo is the new kid on campus and Cubs veterans are certainly leaning toward the latter.

Since Rizzo was called up a week ago the Cubs have won five out of six and have shown flashes of improvement as a team. "The Riz kid" himself has gone 7-for-23 (.304) with two home runs, five RBIs, two doubles and a .986 OPS. He has also delivered the game-winning RBI on three occasions. And lets be honest no matter how good he is none of the seniors want to get outplayed by a freshman.

Since Rizzos arrival Luis Valbuena is hitting .333 -- .87 points above his average -- with six RBIs and a 1.030 OPS. David Dejesus is also a prime example of the Rizzo effect, hitting .64 points above his average since the call-up. Darwin Barney has been hitting well above his average. That, coupled with a few outstanding nights in the field shows great progress for him as well.

Whether related to Rizzos arrival or not, Starlin Castro took four walks last week, which is more than a third of his season total. I dont know if its the unrelenting Chicago heat, Rizzos arrival or a mystery element, but the Cubs have more closely resembled a team with playoff hopes than one in last place of late.

Rizzo doesnt appear to be feeling the pressure either -- because honestly, there isnt much. This is the perfect environment for a talented prospect to find his bearings in what can be a cruel and unforgiving league. If anyone is feeling the heat it is Rizzos teammates who are trying to keep pace with the new guy.

Cubs brass has made it clear that this team is in the process of a massive roster overhaul and sometimes all it takes is a fresh, talented face in the clubhouse to remind some of the veterans that tomorrow is never a guarantee.

It is much too early to pass judgment on the new guy but there does seem to be an aura about him. In one week "The Rizzard of Oz" has granted Valbuena a swing, Barney a glove and Castro an eye.

But most importantly, he has granted Chicago a glimmer of hope for the future.

Joe Musso contributed to this update.

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

After covering some 25 Bears training camps spanning both Bourbonnais and Platteville, this CSNChicago.com reporter has gleaned some tips for getting the most out of the fan experience:

Appreciate the effort:

A lot of the young men you’ll be watching are living playing to realize a dream they’ve had since they were as young as some of the youngest fans. They are competing for jobs every day, every snap, and even going against teammates, the effort expended is worthy of the utmost respect. A guarantee: You WILL see something spectacular, whether from a star or some young hopeful who will leave it all and then some on that practice field. Enjoy the moment.

Be polite:

If you want autographs from players, your chances improve with a little courtesy. “Hey, Cutler…” and waving a pen and program at the Bears quarterback does not play nearly as well as “Jay, Jay…” or, if you’re a young fan and really want to stand out, “Mr. Cutler, Mr. Cutler…” Players don’t always get to hear a lot of “polite.” It doesn’t guarantee a signing, but understand that there’s no way players can sign every request and still have fully functioning limbs. And if a player doesn’t stop to sign, it’s not a snub. Most players sign every other day, so this just might be their off day for signing.

Plus, if it’s post-practice, remember that these players have just gone through at least two hours of beyond-max-effort work, wearing equipment that is anything but air-conditioned and weighs as much as a small child, and getting off their feet is a necessary survival skill.

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Go early:

The folks at Olivet Nazarene University do a truly amazing job of crowd and traffic control, but depending on the size of the crush, particularly on peak days, you may miss some field time getting into the parking lots if you’re getting there close to the start of practice. For another thing, players are typically on the field well ahead of the scheduled start times for practice, so you’ll be seeing players working and getting loosened up if you’re there early.

Understand the cadence and order:

Practices are not continuous scrimmaging and hitting. For one thing, that’s physically not possible, or smart. The Bears have individual sessions, then depending on the day, may come together for a “live” run scrimmage without receivers, followed by a less intense session, maybe some special teams, before or after very live pass-protection and receiver-DB head-to-heads, a break, then finishing with 11-on-11 “team” sessions.

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

The Atlanta Falcons released kick return specialist Devin Hester on Tuesday after just two seasons with the team. 

The former Bear and four-time Pro Bowl selection, who's best known for being one of the NFL's most dangerous return men, is now in the market for a new NFL job. 

So that begs the question, should the Bears entertain the idea of bringing Hester back to Chicago in 2016?

Hester, 33, has an NFL-record 20 touchdown returns over his 10 year career. However, he only had one return touchdown during his two years in Atlanta, and collected just two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. 

It's safe to say the Bears aren't interested in Hester as a receiver, and who knows how much gas he has left in the tank, but he has certainly made an impact during his time in the Windy City. 

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said at the ninth annual Blackhawks Convention that he's prepared to enter the 2016-17 season with the roster as currently constructed, but there could be one more addition coming, and an impactful one at that.

Coveted free agent forward Jimmy Vesey will hit the open market on Aug. 15, and the Blackhawks are reportedly among the short list of teams set to meet with him when he's eligible to speak with other clubs next month.

"Chicago will be a team we want to talk to on Aug. 15," Vesey's agent Peter Donatelli told Scott Powers of The Athletic over the phone Monday. "Chicago will be on the list, but it shouldn't be read as they're ahead of anyone else.

"He really has no idea where he's going to be. It's going to be up to the teams to sell him. ... Yes, [we have criteria], but we're interested in what the teams say rather than telling the teams what they have to say."

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Vesey is currently property of the Buffalo Sabres after the Nashville Predators, who originally drafted him with the No. 66 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, traded the 23-year-old left winger's negotiating rights in June for a 2016 third-round selection when it became apparent the two sides wouldn't be able to hammer out a deal.

What makes Vesey and Chicago a perfect match for each other is there's a legitimate spot open in the top-six to potentially play alongside Jonathan Toews, and because Vesey would be signing an entry-level contract, the maximum allowable salary is $925,000 per year, which benefits the cap-strapped Blackhawks.

Vesey is a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, and captured the award as the best player in college hockey last season after scoring 24 goals and adding 22 assists in 33 games with Harvard University, where he played four years.

The previous two Hobey Baker Award winners are Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames (2014) and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres (2015), so the possibility of Vesey landing in Chicago could immediately give the Blackhawks another dynamic scoring option.