Chicago White Sox

Back in the big leagues: Emergency bullpen catcher Chris O'Dowd's second MLB experience is more authentic

Back in the big leagues: Emergency bullpen catcher Chris O'Dowd's second MLB experience is more authentic

CLEVELAND — Chris O’Dowd is experiencing a major league clubhouse for the second time in his life. This round feels more authentic and makes him realize he’s not all that far away at Double-A Birmingham.

The White Sox minor leaguer joined the team on Tuesday to fill in as the big league club’s emergency bullpen catcher after Adam Ricks left the team to deal with a sore knee.

It’s the second time in O’Dowd’s life he’s had access to a major league clubhouse. He routinely visited the Colorado Rockies clubhouse from 1999-2014 when his father, Dan O’Dowd, was the team’s general manager. Whereas before he was a teen who tried to go unnoticed, this time O’Dowd, 26, is more at ease because of his playing experience.

“I tried to be a fly on the wall,” O’Dowd said. “Part of it as a kid too — everyone has grinded and done everything they can their whole life to be here today. I always wanted it to be that I attained it by me going through the same thing everyone else has to be in this situation. I was very cautious with how much time and how immersed I was into the clubhouse side of things growing up.”

O’Dowd has been heavily immersed in the White Sox since he joined the team in Tampa Bay to fill in for Ricks. He’s spent most of his pregame sessions in the bullpen, takes batting practice, sits in on advanced meetings and has been on the run all week, soaking up the major league atmosphere. And he isn’t asking any questions about how long he may stay with the White Sox (he’s currently on the seven-day DL at Double-A with a sore hamstring).

A 23rd-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2012, O’Dowd has also played in the Atlanta Braves and Rockies organizations. A Dartmouth College grad who double majored in Economics and English with a Psychology minor, O’Dowd is grateful to be in the big leagues.

He’s been very impressed with how prepared the coaches are as well as the willingness of players to use the information provided. He also realizes that his level of preparation is similar to his peers.

“Being here on a daily basis puts me in the middle of the good, the bad, the grind of it and what it takes to come to the ballpark every day and piece together a good day to help the team win,” O’Dowd said. “It’s just good to see how everyone does it a little differently, but how everyone has the conviction and intent to show up every day and do what they need to do to be ready.

"When you take a guy like me that’s been in Double-A for four years now and Triple-A, you do feel like you’re far away from the big leagues and what’s it going to take to get over the hump? And you see guys attack each day the same way that we do and that there’s not really that much of a divide. So it’s more motivation than anything to know that you’re closer than you probably ever thought. The right circumstances, the right spot, it could happen and you could be here in the clubhouse.”

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And if he never does make his way here as a player, O’Dowd knows how lucky he is to have this experience. O’Dowd said he’s grateful to everyone who has helped him reach this point — “so many people that have helped me, been a part of this journey and believed in me and continue to believe in me in the moments that you face a lot of adversity,” he said.

Given how much time he’s spent around baseball, his unique view into the front office and playing experience, it’s only natural to think O’Dowd has a future beyond baseball. O’Dowd isn’t yet ready to consider his next step. He’d still like to get here as a player. But if that doesn’t materialize, O’Dowd realizes this experience could be critical for his future.

“As a player you don’t want to have a Plan B and I’ve been all in trying to be the best I can at this,” O’Dowd said. “At some point in time you’ll have to think about that. But what I’m trying to do is continue to get the most out of my playing ability. If that leads to something else, this experience is invaluable and continues to shape my perspective, how I see the game and hopefully makes a transition easier.

“Any time you can be around a big league team and observe, I think there’s a value to it. It’s hard to quantify.”

J.D. Power study shows White Sox offer top fan experience in Chicago sports


J.D. Power study shows White Sox offer top fan experience in Chicago sports

The White Sox haven't done much winning this season. In fact, they entered Wednesday with just 45 victories, eight fewer than Oakland's 53 wins.

But while the product on the field hasn't yielded much (a full teardown and rebuild will do just that), according to one study the fans in the stands are still having an excellent time.

J.D. Power released their second annual 2017 Fan Experience Study, and the White Sox rank first in the Chicago market among all the major sports teams.

J.D. Power "measures fan satisfaction with their overall experience at major pro sporting events." The seven factors (in order of importance) are:

1. Seating area and game experience
2. Security and ushers
3. Leaving the game
4. Arriving at the game
5. Food and beverage
6. Ticket purchase
7. Souvenirs and merchandise

On a 1,000-point scale, the White Sox lead the Chicago market with an 809 rating, slightly above the MLS' Chicago Fire. Take a look at the chart here:

Of the 11 markets, Chicago was the only where a sport other than MLS or NHL led the way.

J.D. Power added these notes from Chicago: 

  • Sweeter on the south side: The White Sox (809) jump to the top of overall fan experience scores in the Chicago market, knocking the Fire (806) off its perch from last year and making it the only MLB team to rank highest in the study across all markets.
  • Hey, hey, what’s with the champs?: The Cubs (767) had a storybook season in 2016, but the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field still aren’t living up to fan expectations, particularly when it comes to the food and beverage experience (695).

Not only did the White Sox finish first in Chicago, they fared pretty well among all markets. Only the New York Red Bulls (819), Los Angeles Galaxy (815), Houston Dynamo (814), New Jersey Devils (813) and the Florida Panthers (813) ranked higher.

The team may not be winning this year, but you're guaranteed to have a great time at G-Rate Field.

White Sox prospect Carson Fulmer leaves games early, expected to make next start


White Sox prospect Carson Fulmer leaves games early, expected to make next start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carson Fulmer left Tuesday night's game early but he should be back on the mound again in time for his next start.

The Triple-A Charlotte pitcher exited in the top of the sixth inning with a cramp in his right leg, Knights manager Mark Grudzielanek said. Fulmer informed the staff he had cramped up in the third inning and received treatment. He returned to the mound but had to exit again in the sixth. The Knights lost 5-3 to the Toledo MudHens in 10 innings at BB&T Ballpark.

“He just cramped up. It was a hot night and it was his push-off leg,” Grudzielanek said. “His actions, he was feeling it so we got him out of there.

“He was a cramping up a few innings, probably the end of the third he came in a little tight, worked him out, hydrated him and tried to get him feeling a little better, loosened him up. He looked good in the fourth but it came back after the fifth.”

“Absolutely, he’ll be fine. It was cramps. It wasn’t anything other than that. You get better, you move on and he’ll make his next start and be ready to go like he always does.”

[MORE: Why White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season

Fulmer moved on after a slow first inning cost him three runs. The right-hander yielded a three-run homer to ex-Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario in the first inning, one of three first-inning hits Fulmer allowed. But Fulmer, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, settled down and retired 10 straight batters.

Fulmer is 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts this season.

“He hung some pitches and got behind a little bit and when that happens you put some runners on, put a good swing on it and it leaves the park,” Grudzielanek said. “He understands the consequences when you get behind hitters.

“He looked good after that. He’s working his offspeed pitches. I thought he threw for strikes earlier in the counts and got ahead of some of the hitters and had some rollouts and some easy fly balls and he was a different pitcher there for four or five innings.”