CSN celebrates Black History Month

CSN celebrates Black History Month

COMCAST SPORTSNET CELEBRATES BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Chicago, IL (January 29, 2013) Comcast SportsNet, the television home of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, celebrates Black History Month in February with four special feature stories highlighting prominent African-American athletes, coaches and significant sports moments that will air every Sunday night in February on GMC SportsNet Central at 10:30 PM. Comcast SportsNet celebrates Black History Month is presented by the U.S. Marines.

Beginning Sunday, February 3 and airing every Sunday night in February at 10:30 PM on GMC SportsNet Central, Comcast SportsNet celebrates Black History Month will present a new feature story highlighting the tremendous impact African-Americans had on the sporting world from a local perspective. CSNChicago.com will also make each feature story video available for online viewing immediately after they air on Comcast SportsNet. Note the following Black History Month feature stories and air dates:

ISIAH THOMAS (Sunday, February 3 at 10:30 PM): A Basketball Hall of Famer whose career ran the full gamut. From a college success with Bob Knights Indiana Hoosiers, to the chief Bad Boy of the 80s Detroit Pistons championship teams, to a team executive, and a head coach on the pro and college levels, Thomas has done it all. A basketball journey began as a Charger with St. Joseph High School in Westchester, under legendary coach Gene Pingatore, Thomas is now back home in Chicago and has been working to solve the problems of violence in Chicago communities.

DOROTHY GATERS (Sunday, February 10 at 10:30 PM): The most successful coach in the history of high school basketball in Illinois. She has more than 970 career victories in nearly 40 years of coaching the Marshall High School girls basketball team, and also serves as the schools athletic director. Gaters reflects on her magical life of basketball...a career that shows no signs of slowing down.

FRITZ POLLARD (Sunday, February 17 at 10:30 PM): Born in Chicago in the late 1800s, Pollard became pro footballs first African-American head coach, while also playing with the Akron Pros 1921. In high school, he attended Lane Tech and was a star of multiple sports there before moving onto play college football as an Ivy Leaguer at Brown University. Pollard was 92 when he passed away in 1986, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Pollards grandson, Dr. Stephen Towns, delivered the speech on the day of his induction into the Hall. For this profile, we travel to Towns home in Indianapolis as he chronicles the life and times of Pollard as a pioneer and as a man.

ERNIE BANKSTHE MANAGER (Sunday, February 24 at 10:30 PM): Cubs enthusiasts know all about Ernie Banks, the 14-time All-Star, and slugger of 512 career home runsbut there is also the milestone of his career that isnt told often. On May 8th, 1973, Cubs manager Whitey Lockman was ejected from a game in extra innings. Banks was an assistant coach who slid into the managers seat to replace Lockman for the remainder of the game. With that move, Banks unofficially became the first African-American to manage a Major League team, pre-dating Frank Robinson by two years, when he officially took over as the full-time manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. Ernie and a couple of Cubs teammates share their thoughts about Mr. Cub and his one-day encounter as skipper.

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

Jose Abreu has made quite a turnaround from being a guy who was admittedly lost to bashing the ball like Abreu of old.

From April 19th on, Abreu has hit at another level, reminiscent of the performances he put on throughout an eye-opening 2014 campaign in which he was the unanimous American League rookie of the year winner. Over that stretch, Abreu has slashed at an absurd .347/.404/.677 clip with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances.

Earlier this week, Abreu said the run is the product of trusting his tireless preparation.

"I struggled in the first few weeks of the season but I kept working," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Now I'm at this point where I feel very good and confident with my offense and things are going well for me. That's part of what you work for and if you work hard, you know the results will be there at the end of the day."

Two numbers that have improved significantly during Abreu's five-week tear are his average exit velocity and strikeout rate.

Abreu entered Wednesday 39th in the the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph this season, according to Baseball Savant.

But Abreu wasn't hitting the ball nearly as hard early this season, which was littered with weak contact. Abreu stumbled out of the gate with a .157 average, one extra-base hit and only five RBIs in his first 54 plate appearances. Through the first two weeks, Abreu's average exit velocity was 89.0 mph on 31 batted-ball events, which was slightly down from last season's 89.6 mph average and significantly down from 2015, when he averaged 90.9 mph.

Since then, however, Abreu has seen a significant increase in hard contact. Over his last 92 batted-ball events, Abreu is averaging 92.6 mph, a total that would qualify for 15th in the majors this season. Included in that span is 35 balls hit 100 mph or more.

But Abreu's success isn't just related to how hard he has hit the ball. He's also made much better contact this season and is striking out less than ever. Abreu struck out 14 times in his first 54 plate appearances (25.9 percent). But since then, he has whiffed only 17 times in 136 plate appearances, good for a 12.5 percent strikeout rate.

His season K-rate of 16.3 percent, according to Fangraphs.com, is down from a career mark of 19.6 percent.

"You have started to see him heat up a little," manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's in a good place right now."

Actually, it's a great place and one Abreu hasn't done with consistency since 2015. He once again looks like the hitting machine he was for most of his first two seasons and the final two months of 2016.

Abreu is on pace to hit 36 home runs this season, which would match his 2014 total. His current wRC+ of 138 is his highest since he finished 2014 at 167.

Last season, Abreu didn't hit his 10th home run until June 18. He hit his 11th homer on June 23 and then didn't hit another until August 4. That stretch raised myriad questions both inside the organization and externally about whether or not Abreu would return to prominence as a hitter. Perhaps inspired by the August arrival of his son, Dariel, Abreu finished 2016 with a flurry, hitting .340/.402/.572 with 14 home runs in his final 241 plate appearances.

General manager Rick Hahn said last September that the stretch was important for White Sox evaluators to see.

"It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career," Hahn said. "Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks."

The White Sox offense has benefitted from Abreu's leap back into prominence. The team has averaged 4.53 runs per game this season and is 9th in the American League with 204 runs scored and 17th overall in the majors. But the increase in offense still hasn't helped the White Sox improve in the standings. While Abreu is glad to be on the roll he is, he'd prefer if his team is along for the ride.

"We're are passing through a tough moment, a rough stretch," Abreu said. "For me as I've always said the team is first. I want to thank God for how I've performed through this rough stretch. But it's not something makes me feel happy because we didn't win as many games as we wanted to win. It's tough."

92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

planoslide.png

92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Plano

Head coach: Brad Kunz

How they fared in 2016: 7-3 (4-1 Interstate 8 Large), lost to Manteno in the 4A  opening round action.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 – Johnsburg

Sept. 1 – @ Harvard

Sept. 8 – Herscher

Sept. 15 - @ Sandwich

Sept. 22 - Manteno

Sept. 29 – @ Coal City

Oct. 6 - Streator

Oct. 13 - Reed-Custer

Oct. 20 - @ Westmont

Biggest storyline: Can the Reapers reload?

Names to watch this season: Senior DB Mauricio Perez Senior DB Alec Chavez

Biggest holes to fill: The Reapers will need to replace 20 graduated starters from a season ago, and that group also included several multi-year starters for Plano.

EDGY's Early Take: The Reapers no question have work to do this summer, yet head coach Brad Kunz and staff always finds a way for Plano to compete in the Interstate 8 conference and beyond.