White Sox touched by greatness during Ali's visit

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White Sox touched by greatness during Ali's visit

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
1:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Chicago White Sox were touched by greatness before their game against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, as Muhammad Ali visited with the team in a closed-door workshop intended to educate and inspire.

Alis wife, Lonnie, began the session telling the players she was a lifelong baseball fan. I live and breathe the game, she said. I know what it takes for you to get here.

Lonnie Ali connected the six core values her husband has lived byrespect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, spiritualityvalues that guide the work of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville and Alis Athletes for Hope foundation.

Main speaker Ivan Blumberg, CEO of Athletes for Hope, handled the heavy lifting of the session, with Ali sitting, flanked by Lonnie, sister-in-law Marilyn, and family friend and White Sox GM Ken Williams.

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The meat of the session was marked by a large amount of player participation, but was led off in shocking fashion, as chatterbug third-base coach Jeff Cox was rendered speechless by a question about hope. Later, manager Ozzie Guillen dogged Omar Vizquel for his admission that coaches are one of the types of people who give him hope (Ozzie to Omar: You dont have to lie just because Im here!).

Among the White Sox players and staff engaged in the lively debate during a session primarily focused on an athletes obligation toward service were Kevin Hickey, Will Ohman, Edwin Jackson, Lastings Milledge, Guillen, Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Vizquel, Sergio Santos, Brent Lillibridge, Stefan Gartrell, and Williams.

The session was indeed tailor-made for debate, whether it was Milledge and Juan Pierre trying to school Alex Rios about Alis status as The Greatest, to a number of athletes in service debates spilling out after the workshop. A.J. Pierzynski and Konerko continued debating how an athletes fame impacts service (Konerko, in support of the bigger name-bigger impact faction: Hey, Im a numbers guy, what can I say?) and later it was Pierzynski, Ohman, and Peavy discussing the topic as well.

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The whole thing was cool, Pierzynski said. Blumberg gave very valid points about a lot of things, basically getting out there and doing anything you can do to help, whether its time or money. Its the message the White Sox believe in very strongly.

I try to do everything I can to help people. Its just something everyone should try to do, no matter what you, how you live, or what your means are. You can always try to help other people.

Konerko shared Pierzynskis sentiments. The Captain also agreed that while both players had met Ali before, it was always awe-inspiring to be in the presence of The Greatest.

That was pretty cool, Konerko said. Hes one of the most recognized people on the planet. Were public figures and people know us, but Ali is a whole other ball of wax. Its like meeting a President.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia will both return to the White Sox in 2017.

The team announced it reached deals with both players shortly before Friday’s 7 p.m. CST nontender deadline. Lawrie will earn $3.5 million next season and Garcia received a one-year deal for $3 million.

The club didn’t tender a contract to right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, which leaves its 40-man roster at 38.

Acquired last December for a pair of minor leaguers, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Lawrie produced 0.9 f-WAR when he suffered what then-manager Robin Ventura described a “tricky” injury on July 21. Despite numerous tests and a lengthy rehab, Lawrie never returned to the field and was frustrated by the experience. Last month, Lawrie tweeted that he believes the cause of his injury was wearing orthotics for the first time in his career.

He was projected to earn $5.1 million, according to MLBTraderumors.com and earned $4.125 million in 2016.

Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 453 plate appearances over 120 games. The projected salary for Garcia, arb-eligible for the first time, was $3.4 million.

The team also offered contracts to Miguel Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, who are eligible for free agency in 2018, first baseman Jose Abreu and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, among others.

The White Sox have until mid-January to reach an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players. If they haven’t, both sides submit figures for arbitration cases, which are then heard throughout February.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

Crain's Chicago Business released its latest 40 under 40 project and White Sox announcer Jason Benetti made this year's list.

The 33-year-old just finished his first season with the White Sox as play-by-play announcer, working the home games at U.S. Cellular Field (before it was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field last month) alongside Steve Stone as longtime broadcaster Hawk Harrelson saw his workload reduced to mostly road games.

Benetti quickly became a fan favorite among Chicagoans on CSN and other networks in 2016 and his cerebral palsy became more of a backstory, with his work alongside Stone and his affable sense of humor taking center stage instead.

Among other topics, Benetti discussed how he approaches his job of broadcasting for the team he grew up rooting for:

Law school taught me that there are always two sides of the argument. I see it from the Sox prism, but I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that, if the Sox lose, the world’s over anymore. That first game, I was like, “All right, it’s just a game.” And then Avi Garcia hits a homer late in the game against the Indians and I call it like I would call it with a little more. And as the ball cleared the fence, when it was rolling around, I got a slight tear in my eye. And I was like, “What’s that?”

Check out the entire interview with Benetti and the full list at ChicagoBusiness.com.