White Sox, Tigers feeling World Cup fever

White Sox, Tigers feeling World Cup fever
June 11, 2014, 6:30 pm
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The World Cup begins on Thursday, and Andre Rienzo has made a bet he doesn’t want to pay up.

Rienzo, who hails from this year’s host country, Brazil, must wear Alexei Ramirez’s Argentina jersey and take a picture if that team advances further than the pitcher’s in this year’s World Cup. Were Brazil to outlast Argentina, Ramirez would have to wear Rienzo’s jersey, and the shortstop would have to take a picture in the outfit.

One of two major leaguers from Brazil, Rienzo doesn’t want to have to deal with the consequences.

“I hope Brazil wins, because if I get a picture with Argentina, people will kill me,” Rienzo said. “It’s huge in Brazil right now. It’s party, and people like it and people want to go and see the games happen. I hope Brazil wins.”

Players were equally excited about Thursday’s start of World Cup action in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse — designated hitter Victor Martinez arrived in the clubhouse wearing a jersey of Brazilian star Neymar.

The White Sox have several big soccer fans in the clubhouse, with Rienzo claiming to be the biggest. But he’s willing to concede that some of his teammates are big fans as well.

“I think (Jose) Quintana with Colombia is pretty good,” Rienzo said. “Alexei, (Dayan) Viciedo, the guys like a lot of soccer.”

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Sale likes K-Zone energy

The White Sox have expanded the “K-Zone” for Chris Sale to two sections, and the two-time All-Star pitcher has noticed. Whenever Sale pitches at home, the White Sox offer fans sitting in the area — which was recently increased from one to two sections — a T-shirt and a placard adorned with the letter K. Tickets go for $20, except for Sundays, when they’re $15.

“I’ve seen it out there when I’m warming up in the bullpen,” Sale said. “It’s fun to have the excitement of that in the ballpark and hearing those guys go crazy every time that there’s a strikeout. It’s fun to have people in the stands. Every time you get more people in the stands, it creates more energy and more excitement in the ballpark.”

The White Sox have sold out tickets for the K-Zone seats in each of Sale’s six home starts this season. While the tickets, near the left-field corner, are normally popular because they’re discounted, they’re even more popular when Sale pitches.

“Chris is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it is great to see our fans supporting him and his teammates,” White Sox marketing director Brooks Boyer.

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Ausmus credits Ventura as managerial trailblazer

First-year Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus got his job despite not having any prior managerial experience, and to an extent, he has Robin Ventura to thank.

“He and (Cardinals manager) Mike Matheny I think are the two guys recently that have kind of paved the way for managers with no managerial experience or no big league coaching experience,” Ausmus said. “I've said that since I've got the job, those two followed by Walt Weiss in Colorado, if they hadn't done that I probably wouldn't be sitting here.”

The trend has extended beyond baseball, too — the NBA's New Jersey Nets hired Jason Kidd without any coaching experience, and earlier this week the New York Knicks gave a five-year, $25 million contract to recently retired Derek Fisher to be the team's head coach, too.

“Man, they get some big contracts,” Ausmus laughed. “Maybe executives are putting a little more stock in the ability of a coach or a manager to relate to its player core.”

CSNChicago.com reporter JJ Stankevitz contributed to this report.