Clevenger on ejection: 'It won't happen again'

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Clevenger on ejection: 'It won't happen again'

With the Cubs sunk in an eight-game losing streak and trailing 3-1 - not to mention three touchdowns under .500 - Steve Clevenger's ejection in the fifth inning of Thursday's 5-3 win against Cincinnati for arguing balls and strikes was, on one hand, a welcome site.

Clevenger yelled and pointed at home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Nelson stuck his head right back in Clevenger's face. It was dramatic. It was entertaining. It was something.

If only Clevenger weren't the catcher.

Call it growing pains or just a mental lapse, but Clevenger's decision to speak his mind mid-at-bat to the man who calls balls and strikes for his own pitchers, too, showed how young and raw this Cubs team is.

The 26-year-old argued that the pitch Nelson called a strike was in the same spot as the previous pitch, which Nelson called a ball.

"I felt the ball was outside, and the next pitch was the same exact pitch, I thought," Clevenger said. "He called it a ball. As a hitter, you can't hit like that (when) you don't know whether he's going to call a strike or ball. You can't hit like that."

TV replays showed the ball was well outside, even farther off the plate than the previous pitch, in fact.

But regardless of how calls affect his hitting, the Cubs want Clevenger thinking more like a catcher. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after the game that a catcher needs to show more composure than Clevenger did.

Clevenger knew that, too, and apologized to Sveum after the game.

"I can't get ejected in that situation," Clevenger said. "I went up and apologized to Dale for getting ejected and said, 'Won't happen again. Can't happen.'"

Ejections aren't all that uncommon in baseball, but with a team this young, everything is a learning experience for these Cubs. Clevenger said he'll talk to Nelson, the umpire who tossed him, when he gets a chance later this season.

A catcher getting ejected while batting is a stupid mistake. But if there's any season for stupid, and learning from it, it's this one.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

It was hard to tell who was more excited Sunday afternoon: the Bulls players or the 400 kids who stopped by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as the team passed out Christmas gifts for kids who reside in the Chicago family housing development.

Robin Lopez was carrying about Benny the Bull, much to the surprise and delight of many kids who were in attendance, while Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo took photos and passed out gifts to every child.

Rondo established roots in Chicago long before becoming a Bull, but has become entrenched in the months since signing with the franchise, being a part of the 17th annual holiday party.

“It’s definitely an honor. An honor to be a Bull,” Rondo said. “Since Day 1 when I got here I thought they were the best organization as far as giving back to the community, and it shows. They do it without hesitation.

“Very welcoming. The people have been great. The kids have been here since Day 1 supporting us as well. It’s very exciting.”

Bulls volunteers served lunch provided by Papa John’s, Coca-Cola and Edy’s Ice Cream, as the holiday party is one of the 30 events the Bulls are organizing as part of the team and NBA Cares’ “Season of Giving.”

“It’s no problem for any of us,” Lopez said. “Look at Raj, look at Jimmy, they’re having a blast out there. They’re having as good of a time as the kids out there.”

Being a California native, the newfound snowfall added to the atmosphere for Lopez.

“This really feels like Christmas,” Lopez said. “I can feel the spirit inside with the kids and the looks on their faces when they walk in and see the toys, they see Jimmy Butler and they’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Whether it was Barbie Dreamhouses, or Nerf basketball rims, the kids were ecstatic to see the Bulls and to pick out the toys being distributed by the Bulls’ stars.

“Very humbling. Over 400 kids. And every kid comes through all smiling and excited,” Rondo said. “Some of them don’t get toys all year and this time of year is about giving. I’m very humbled.”

Butler has been around Bulls Charities since being drafted in 2011, so although this is old hat, he hasn’t lost any of the spirit that comes with doing events like this year after year.

He posed with kids for photos and cracked jokes to the younger basketball fans.

“Feels good. I just like being here. It’s what this time of year is all about, seeing these kids smile,” Butler said. “I love kids, I love this city, I want everybody to be happy all the time. However I can make that happen, especially around Christmas and the holidays, I’ll do.”

Lopez is quiet to many who see him on the floor, but his eyes lit up around the kids and made Benny the Bull his personal prop by picking him up and carrying him through the museum.

“Every time I see it, it’s a wonderful feeling. To think I’m a small part of it, I can’t begin to describe it,” Lopez said. “Any opportunity I get to work with kids, that’s always easy yes in my book. I’m a big kid at heart. Any time I can go play, I’m in.

“It’s indescribable. I got so many great gifts as a kid, and blessed in so many ways. Just to be able to give back in any facet, that’s an easy yes.”

Sunday's event leads up to Monday's Chicago Bulls Charities Night at the United Center. The Bulls host the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. on CSN.