Sox Drawer: Pierzynski feels the loss of Hickey

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Sox Drawer: Pierzynski feels the loss of Hickey

When Dayan Viciedo hit that dramatic home run Thursday night in New York, he was there.

When Philip Humber threw the perfect game in Seattle, he was there too.

All season long, Kevin Hickey has been there; in the hearts and minds of the Chicago White Sox.

I know every time I look at his jersey, hes there, said A.J. Pierzynski about Hickeys number-99 jersey which hangs in the White Sox dugout, both home and away. He always pops in your head at weird times, just because for seven years, he was there.

Hickey made a career out of being there for the White Sox, first as a fan, then as a pitcher, followed by those seven years as the teams batting practice coach. But to the players and coaches, he was much more than that.

Especially to Pierzynski.

He might be known as a hard-nosed catcher, but A.J. will always have a soft spot for the guy they called Hick man, who passed away on May 16 at the age of 56.

Its hard to describe because until youre here every day, in the clubhouse everydayon the planes with us, on the buses with us, on the road with us, in the hotels with us, you dont understand how close you become with people, said Pierzynski. The people who have been here and have been through wars with and been through battles with, and youve done everything you can with them, you understand that this is a guy that would do anything for me, and Kevin Hickey was that guy, he literally would do anything for me.

While the White Sox were in Texas preparing for their final workout before Opening Day, word reached the clubhouse that Hickey was found to be unresponsive in his hotel room. The players didnt know the severity of the situation, but they did know Hickey, which meant theyd be seeing him again soon.

Hes gonna come out of it, hes in great shape and you just really thought he wasone day were gonna get the phone call and hes awake, Pierzynski said.

That day never came.

I would go and visit him in the hospital and see him and see his family. You start getting a medical diagnosis and prognosis of whats supposed to happen, it just never seemed like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and I feel so sorry for his daughters, his brothers and sisters and his mom. And then when we get the phone call that he was gone. That was kind of the finality of it all. Then it was like, Okay, this is over with now. Im not gonna see Kevin at the field, hes not gonna be there to flip to me, hes not gonna be there to throw to me, hes not gonna be there to cheer me on everyday, because he was the biggest cheerleader we had.

Hickeys funeral was held on May 22. The family asked Pierzynski to speak on behalf of the players, two days after the White Sox had won three straight from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

No one was more proud of our team that we swept the Cubs, a teary-eyed Pierzynski said of Hickey to the crowd. His jersey was there hanging, watching us....Ill miss Kevin forever.

A.J. is someone who excels in front of huge crowds on the games biggest stage. But to stand before family and teammates, all with heavy hearts, to speak about their lost friend was something he was not prepared for.

To get up there and talk was really one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life, said Pierzynski, who choked up several times during his speech. I have no problem speaking in front of people that you dont know. It could be a million people and Ive got no problem getting up there and talking, but when you get up there and you look down and see his family there, and you see the casket there, its just a different thing and it was one of the hardest things Ive ever had to do. Im honored that they asked me to do it, but I loved Hick and I love his family and I know hes in a better place now.

Wherever that place is, it does seem like a part of Hickey is still here. If its not his jersey hanging in the dugout, its his spirit that appears to be following Pierzynski around the field. With 12 home runs and 42 RBIs, A.J. is easily on pace for the best season of his career.

Kevin Hickeys one of the greatest people and I wish he was here every day, Pierzynski said. But hes gone. We have to find a way to keep his memory alive.

It turns out, they are.

By winning, by playing the game hard, and for each other.

Hickey was known as the ultimate underdog. Before the season, so were the White Sox.

But here we are on June 29 and look who's in first place.

You know who wouldn't be happier?

Kevin Hickey.

Recruiting News and Notes: Ben Bryant commits to Cincinnati

Recruiting News and Notes: Ben Bryant commits to Cincinnati

Ben Bryant (QB), Lyons Township

Lyons Township senior three-star quarterback Ben Bryant (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), who originally gave Wisconsin his verbal commitment only to have the Badgers rescind his verbal scholarship offer, has given Cincinnati his verbal commitment.

"It was a much harder decision this time around compared to the first time I committed," Bryant said. "When I committed the first time (to Wisconsin) I had two offers. This time around I had a lot of options and some great offers, but Cincinnati is the best place for me."

Bryant is thrilled to have ended his recruiting process again and can now focus on his upcoming senior season while also putting to rest the entire ordeal with Wisconsin.

"I've put the whole Wisconsin deal behind me and I stand my statement that I sent out on my Twitter account and that's all I have to say. I had some great offers and options and it was a great problem to have. I can just focus now on my team this summer and having a great senior season."

Bryant joins Simeon wide receiver Jayshon Jackson and Mount Carmel senior offensive linemen Jeremy Cooper as part of the Bearcats Class of 2018. 

Jeff Griffin (DL), Homewood-Flossmoor

Northern Illinois continues to do well with filling out its Class of 2018. The Huskies added another Chicagoland piece when Homewood-Flossmoor senior defensive linemen Jeff Griffin (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) became the team's ninth in-state commitment and 14th overall pledge.

"I visited NIU (last Saturday) and that visit really sold me on NIU," Griffin said. "I always wanted to stay closer to home for school and once NIU stepped up and offered me it was a hard offer to turn down. After the visit on Saturday I was sold on NIU so I called up the coaches and committed."

Griffin is also hoping to help NIU add a few more pieces from Homewood-Flossmoor's talented senior class.

"I'm definitely already talking to Justin (Hall) and Mario (Wright II) about joining me at NIU."

Seniors' athlete Justin Hall and linebacker Mario Wright II have both listed Northern Illinois as one of their favorite schools this summer. 

[RELATED: Recruiting News and Notes - Jyran Mitchell commits to NIU]

Indiana State recruiting

Indiana State head coach Curt Mallory has been on fire when it comes to the Sycamores recruiting this summer. Mallory, who was a long-time assistant coach at various stops in Illinois, now has an amazing 24 verbal commitments — including two recent additions in Bishop McNamara safety Giavion Mason (6-foot-0, 190 pounds) and Lindblom wide receiver CJ Rutherford (6-foot-0. 170 pounds).

So why the Sycamores?

Rutherford pointed towards the strength of the coaching staff as a big factor in his decision.

"I really love the coaching staff at Indiana State," Rutherford said. "Coach Mallory brought in a staff that has a lot of experience and several of his coaches worked with him when he was at Michigan. The coaches made us feel comfortable and at home at Indiana State and I'm just excited to be a part of helping the football program win."

Recruiting News

Who are the Top 5 uncommitted players remaining in the Class of 2018?

Carterville tight end Luke Ford (6-foot-7, 245 pounds) has offers from literally every Power 5 school in the nation. Ford originally committed to Arkansas.

Oswego DT Noah Shannon (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) was committed to Minnesota but reopened his recruiting process. Shannon has shown heavy interest in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana and Arkansas.

Bolingbrook DT Dashaun Mallory (6-foot-2, 265 pounds) added a camp offer from Michigan State, and has a Top 3 list of the Spartans, along with Iowa State and Toledo. 

Waubonsie Valley tight end Charles Robinson (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) listed Iowa State, Minnesota and Mississippi State as his Top 3 favorite schools.

Bolingbrook wide receiver I'Shawn Stewart (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) camped earlier this summer with Wisconsin and also made a recent visit to Syracuse. 

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

The 45th President of the United States Donald Trump welcomed the 2016 World Series champion Cubs to The White House on Wednesday afternoon.

While attendance was optional due to the Cubs already holding a formal ceremony with former President Barack Obama last January, several Cubs players and manager Joe Maddon attended Wednesday's gathering. 

Check out some of the sights and sounds from the Cubs busy day in D.C.

Vice President Mike Pence gets his own Cubs jersey.

Trump wants to know who the best hitter on the Cubs is so he can pick them up for his fantasy baseball team (we made up that last part).

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert crashes the party.

The Cubs display a card displaying No. 45 for President Trump.

Who is the Cubs owner in this picture?