Sox Drawer: White Sox Fantasy Camp

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Sox Drawer: White Sox Fantasy Camp

Monday, Jan. 11, 2010
8:10 PM

Its a perfect, sunny day in Glendale, Ariz.

We have our caps. We have our cleats, as well as our shiny new White Sox uniforms.

Time to take the field.

A few minutes into our very first practice, a high fly ball travels to short left-center field. Next month, Carlos Quentin or Juan Pierre will be here to catch it. But in the meantime, its up to Rick Larson from McHenry.

Rick has his glove. Rick has his shades, but when the ball comes down, Rick will unfortunately have something else.

A bloody, black eye.

Welcome to the first day of White Sox Fantasy Camp.

Around 80 of us have traveled a couple thousand miles to be here for the week-long event. Some to relive their childhood, some to test their skills against former White Sox greats.

Another is here to document it, and not make a fool out of himself in the process.

That would be me.

But judging by the first 24 hours, its only a matter of time before I am the brunt of some humiliating jokes, because as I am quickly learning ... nobody is left unscathed, and that includes the former players who are acting as both coaches and stand-up comedians.

Here is a brief sampling of the ribbing that goes on all day, every day. And keep in mind, this is the clean stuff:

Hey everyone, Moose Skowron is here. Most of you probably dont know this, but Moose is mentioned four times in the Old Testament.

Ron Kittles version of boredom is when he hears someone talk, and hes not talking about Ron.

Robin Ventura is the only person with five hits off Nolan Ryan. Unfortunately, two of the hits were to Robins chest and three were to his head.

Yes, its been almost 20 years since Nolan gave Robin that noogie sandwich in Texas, and hes still hearing it. Always will.

Were all here to play baseball, but also to have fun and hear stories.

Oh, the stories. Heres one Tom Paciorek told all of us before our initial workout. And Im paraphrasing:

One day in the 1980s, Rick Sutcliffe is on the mound pitching for the Cubs in Pittsburgh. The first batter smokes one over the wall. Home run. The cannon at Three Rivers Stadium goes off. BOOM!

Next batter comes to the plate. Sutcliffe throws. Same result. Home run. The cannon sounds again. BOOM!

Sutcliffe sees Cubs pitching coach Billy Connors taking a slow walk towards the mound.

Get back in the dugout! shouts Sutcliffe. Im fine.

Sorry Rick, Connors says. I have to come out here. They need more time to reload the cannon.

Ba-boom!

We played one game today, we'll play two a day starting tomorrow. My team is coached by Paciorek, Carlos May and Mark Salas.

Hows my baseball ability you ask?

Although I have played softball for years, I hadnt participated in an actual baseball game since Little League. And you wonder why I became a sportscaster?

Growing up, I was known for two things: having great range at shortstop and then sailing my throws over the first basemans head, nailing everything and anything in sight; people, bicycles, dogs, cats. Everything but the first basemans glove.

As a result, I heard a lot of Ooooohs, which were immediately followed by a chorus of Awwwwws.

Fortunately, I played left field today. Im not overthrowing anybody.

I went 1-for-3 with a single in that first game, but we lost to a team coached by Kittle and Richard Dotson, 5-3. But thats nothing compared to what happened to Ventura and Harold Baines team. They got crushed, 28-2.

Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I went over to Robins locker afterward for a postgame comment, only to see that he had changed his name on the top of his locker to Buttermaker.

Robin, what happened??

It didnt go well," he said. "And Im not naming names.

At least not yet.

As for our friend Rick who got hit with that baseball three minutes into camp, it appeared that his week was finished.

But in the third inning, a figure came walking out of the clubhouse and onto our baseball field. He picked up a bat, walked over to the plate, and dug in. Kittle was on the mound, and he delivered a fastball.

A 45-mph fastball. Hey, its fantasy camp.

And despite having a large bandage over his swollen, black eye, Larson smashed the first pitch he saw through the infield for a base hit.

And for one moment fantasy met reality. Rick Larson ... youre my hero.

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

CLEVELAND — Adam Eaton feels sore everywhere and chances are slim he’d play again before he is re-evaluated on Monday when the team returns home.

But the White Sox outfielder said Saturday afternoon that he felt better than he did Friday when he was cleared for a concussion after crashing into the outfield wall making a fantastic catch.

Eaton, who left in the sixth inning of Friday’s game, said he stayed down on the ground for several minutes after he knocked the wind out of himself. Manager Robin Ventura mostly ruled Eaton out for Saturday and Sunday after his hip, shoulder and back were all involved.

“If anybody has ever been in a car accident, it’s kind of the same thing,” Eaton said. “It’s taking inventory of the body parts and making sure everything is back to where we’re supposed to be, and as soon as that is accounted for, we’ll get back out there and play again.

“It seemed like I passed (the concussion test) pretty well.”

Whereas early in his career the White Sox asked Eaton, who played as if his hair were on fire, to dial it back, Ventura appreciated the outfielder’s effort. Not only was there a possibility Eaton could get to the ball, he made a fantastic grab before slamming into the wall. Ventura applauded how much progress Eaton has made in knowing when and when not to go all out in the name of his own safety.

“He’s been a lot better,” Ventura said. “He would run after balls that were probably 10 rows deep. …

“Before he was just out there running crazy and right now he has a better understanding of what he can get to. Last night was just a great play, he runs into the wall and gets himself banged up.”

Staying on the field has made Eaton an extremely valuable asset for the White Sox. Not only is he a strong candidate to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, Eaton has a .791 OPS in 683 plate appearances. He headed into Saturday seventh among the American League position players with 6 Wins Above Replacement. And he has proven versatile with the ability to play right and center field and hit in several spots in the lineup.

“When you look what he does … he’s been pretty dang valuable,” Ventura said.

Eaton feels like part of the value he brings is his willingness to go all out for his teammates. He doesn’t intend to slow down any more than he already has. Eaton said Saturday he was a little ticked by some of the responses he received on social media after the play, feeling like he would have heard criticism if he had backed off.

“You play hard and then all of a sudden you get hurt playing hard and then people have a problem with it and then they say you should play hard,” Eaton said.

“Instead of choosing my body, I chose my team. People can curse me for it, but the day that I backpedal and let the ball hit off the wall is the day I’m going to quit baseball.”

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

CLEVELAND -- He’s played far more than ever before this season, so it’s no surprise that Tim Anderson has started to feel a little more tired than normal.

This is exactly what baseball players mean when they mention the “grind,” that time of the season when the body aches more and each day off is important. It’s not something players can be prepared for — they learn how to handle it as they experience it for the first time. And that’s just what the White Sox shortstop is figuring out — how to manage himself in uncharted territory. Between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors, Anderson has accumulated 646 plate appearances, which is 96 more than he had in 2015. The White Sox have nine more games remaining, including Saturday night’s contest at the Cleveland Indians, which means Anderson could easily reach 680 plate appearances.

“Just working on locking in and staying focused and keeping myself healthy and doing what I’m supposed to do to stay healthy,” Anderson said. “It has been a little tough some times. My body is tired going through this extra month, I’m not really used to it. I’m holding up pretty well and my body is holding up pretty good.”

Anderson appeared to benefit from a day off Thursday when he returned to action on Friday. The team’s top position prospect since Gordon Beckham, Anderson said he spent Thursday hanging out and relaxing at the area home of his cousin, Cleveland Browns fullback Malcolm Johnson.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

He responded to only his third day off all month with two hits, including a first-inning triple on Friday. It was the 30th multi-hit game of Anderson’s career, but only the fifth in September. Anderson, who has a .710 OPS this season, has a .647 September OPS.

“You take advantage of (the time off),” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s played hard. Coming up and realizing that if you are playing everyday, everybody tries to take advantage of it. When you are in your first year, you realize the grind you are going through and you are trying to find a way to be fresh and things like that. You rest and that’s the biggest thing for a day off.”

As much as he’s happy to see the finish line, Anderson wouldn’t mind if the White Sox were gearing up for a postseason run. Though he’s tired, Anderson is still hungry. He said he has no major changes planned in his offseason physical preparation and thinks this experience will be extremely valuable when he goes through it again next September.

“Basically it’s just the first time as a trial,” Anderson said. “See how it is and see how my body reacts and I know what to do next year at this time.

“It’s good. You also want to play more. Just trying to finish strong and end on a good note.”