Saying goodbye to an old friend, Rick Majerus

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Saying goodbye to an old friend, Rick Majerus

When I learned of the death of my very good friend, Rick Majerus, on Saturday night, I wasnt stunned but deeply saddened. I knew that Rick was in very poor health and was never going to coach again, but I wasnt prepared for the sadness that I feel at the loss of a friend who has had a great influence on my life.
I have known Rick since we coached against each other in 1982, when he was an assistant at Marquette and I was a young assistant at Northern Illinois. I remember getting to know him well after he was named Marquettes head coach in 1983, and I would see him on the recruiting trail looking at players in and around the Chicago area.
However, we became very close when he moved on to Ball State and then the University of Utah, when he became a subscriber to my scouting service that I spent 10 years publishing after leaving coaching. Rick would call often about players, looking for a sleeper that Big Ten schools had missed on, and always asked about the toughness of a particular player.
Is he tough enough to play for me? What kind of a kid is he? Those would always be the first questions he would ask, saving questions on the players basketball skills for later in our conversation.
First, he always asked about me and my family and how my son Brett was doing.
When I remarried in 2004, I sent Rick an invitation sure that he wouldnt attend. But he flew from Maui to be at the ceremony and then spent several hours at the reception talking basketball and sports with some of the other guests. Rick took a genuine interest in my family, including my son and stepsons who he always asked me about, even offering my oldest stepson Nick a chance to attend his camps or to walk on and play for him at St. Louis University.
A few years ago Rick called me on a summer afternoon and asked me how my career was going, and was I making progress in getting to call college basketball games as an analyst on TV. When I asked him, "Why?" he replied, I am going to the Milwaukee Brewers game tonight with a TV executive who I am very good friends with. When you get done with your radio show, drive to Milwaukee and have dinner with us. I want him to meet you and I want to tell him he needs to hire you to do games for him.
That was Rick in a nutshell. Thinking of how he could help someone else. Always calling and inviting me to games, to dinner or agreeing to come on my radio show. He was an amazing friend who would never say no and just wanted to have fun together and talk ball as he called it. We would X and O or just talk basketball and about life.
He asked me to have him on my radio show a couple of seasons back, but he wanted to make sure that it would be a lengthy interview. "Put me on for an entire hour, Kap. I want to talk with you," he said. When I told him that I couldn't devote a full hour to St. Louis University basketball on a Chicago radio station, he laughed and said, "We can talk about stem cell research and abortion rights and the war, too. I just went to a Hillary Clinton rally and I have a lot to say about things other than basketball."
We booked the interview and he spent most of the hour talking about social issues, the importance of family and education and a few minutes on how much he loved coaching at St. Louis University. That was the Rick Majerus I knew. He was well-read, he was a deep thinker and he was as loyal a friend as you could possibly hope to have.
He was an amazing man and someone that I will never forget. Rick, I will miss you, my friend. I hope you are sitting down to a wonderful meal and talking ball with some of the all-time greats who are in heaven with you. I will always cherish our friendship and your influence on my life. Rest in peace.

With mysterious injury behind him, Kyle Hendricks has returned to the Cubs and brought jokes

With mysterious injury behind him, Kyle Hendricks has returned to the Cubs and brought jokes

Kyle Hendricks has returned at the turn of the tide for the Cubs and he brought his sense of humor.

Hendricks hasn't pitched since June 4 and is slated to return to the Cubs rotation Monday against the White Sox after missing the last seven weeks with inflammation in his pitching hand.

Basically, his middle finger hurt every time he threw certain pitches.

"That's probably the problem — flipping the bird to people," he joked. "Maybe it's too much driving in Chicago, I don't know."

Joe Maddon cracked up when he found out his stoic pitcher delivered a joke.

"He didn't say that. He did? That's very tongue-in-cheek, Dartmouth-in-cheek, right?" Maddon said. "He's like the most mild-mannered, wonderful fellow. It's just such an awkward injury to get and come back from.

"Right now, he's feeling great. [Cubs trainer PJ Mainville] feels really good about it, also. I think his velocity was up a bit also in the minor leagues in a couple starts. All that are good indicators. An unusual injury, but we're happy to have him back."

Kris Bryant injured his finger diving into third base Wednesday, but only missed one full game, using his freakish healing powers to do what Hendricks struggled to do in a month.

"100 percent [wish I could heal like Bryant]," Hendricks said with a smile. "I wish it wasn't the middle finger. If it was another finger, maybe it would've been easier. But a lot of things you wish, I guess, at the outset.

"But you just have to look at it — it was what it was and I'm done with it now. Now just go play."

The finger/hand injury is still largely a mystery to both Hendricks and the Cubs. They don't know how it popped up, beyond just excessive throwing (including pitching into November last season). 

He said he felt the issue pop up right before he went to the disabled list and it affected him every time he threw his curveball or sinker, because he used his middle finger more on those pitches. But with his changeup and four-seamer, there was next to no pain.

Moving forward, Hendricks will still throw the curve and sinker just as much in bullpens, but he will cut back on how much he throws overall in between starts, etc. It's too early to address the offseason, but Hendricks — who likes to throw a lot during the winter — will likely have to fine-tune that as well.

Hendricks returns right as the Cubs have appeared to turn their season around. They won the first six games coming out of the All-Star Break and after a rough loss against the Cardinals Friday, pulled off an epic, 2016-esque comeback Saturday vs. St. Louis.

The Cubs trotted out Jose Quintana Sunday and will do the same with Hendricks Monday, making it back-to-back starts from guys who weren't a factor in the Cubs rotation for most of June and July.

"I understand the cliche, but it's actually true this time [that players coming off the DL gives a team a boost]," Maddon said. "To get these two guys coming on board at this time in the season. 

"Getting Kyle back with this particular group is really interesting to watch right now. I think that's also gonna be a shot in the arm with the group, just like Jose in Baltimore. You definitely could feel the difference in attitude and I think when Kyle takes the mound, you're gonna feel the same thing, too."

Immediately after hitting the DL, Hendricks had to endure weeks of doing nothing and waiting around until the inflammation subsided. Then he spent the next few weeks building his arm strength back up after going so long without throwing. 

"It's just an obstacle and you have to look at it as positive in a way," he said. "I used it to get my body in shape, get my cardio going, get my shoulder work and my arm strong. Just try to take every positive out of it that I could. 

"Take a little breather in a way, too. Get away from it. But now, I'm ready to go. Mentally, definitely need this, need to be back and need to have baseball back in my life."

Hendricks and the Cubs are also optimistic his time off could mean he's strong for the stretch run.

Maddon and Co. had been looking for ways to bring the starting pitchers along slowly this season after pitching so many innings so deep into last fall.

The starters were held back in spring training, have been held under 100 pitches in most outings this season and get an extra day off whenever possible.

"The guys are all grinding it out while I'm sitting here getting healthy," Hendricks said. "They're wearing down a little bit, so the guys that are healthy by the end of the year, they can provide a little extra for us."

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.