Hoscheit a two-way star for St. Charles East

911311.png

Hoscheit a two-way star for St. Charles East

Last summer, St. Charles East's Joe Hoscheit had a big decision to make. Should he opt to play baseball or football in college? It wasn't an easy decision. But it wasn't as difficult as losing to three unbeaten teams in one season.

"I like both sports equally," Hoscheit said. "But I started to get recruiting attention for baseball. Northwestern offered first. Then Valparaiso. I was talking to Air Force and Wright State. Size-wise, I felt I had a better opportunity to play baseball.

"In football, I got a lot of letters but no offers. I didn't go to any combines. I had my mind set on baseball as I began to get recruiting attention so I went with it. Baseball was a better fit. I knew I wouldn't get much bigger and I'd have to get faster to play football. I had a chance to go farther in baseball."

So Hoscheit accepted a scholarship to Northwestern. He'll play outfield and catch for the Wildcats. Last spring, he had a .430 batting average for a conference champion.

"I have more talent in baseball," he said.

He also has the academic skills to compete at Northwestern. He ranks No. 15 in a class of 550 and scored 29 on the ACT. He plans to major in business.

But Hoscheit admits there are things that he experiences on the football field on Friday nights that he doesn't feel in baseball, things he began feeling when he began to play the game in fourth grade, things he will feel on Friday night when St. Charles East plays at Wheaton North in the opening round of the Class 7A playoff.

"It's a family experience in football. There is nothing like the camaraderie, the atmosphere of playing on Friday nights, playing together as a team. You don't get it with baseball," he said.

Hoscheit, a 6-foot, 215-pound senior who starts at fullback and middle linebacker, has emerged as the leader of a 6-3 team that has rebounded from two 3-6 seasons in a row and losses to three unbeaten teams.

Coach Mike Fields is touting Hoscheit for All-State recognition and the Defensive Player of the Year in the Upstate Eight's River Division.

"There is no one like him in our conference. He is a throwback football player. He loves to mix it up," Fields said.

Hoscheit is the Saints' leading tackler. He has rushed 61 times for 300 yards, caught 12 passes and scored 10 touchdowns. In last Friday's 26-0 victory over Elgin Larkin, he rushed nine times for 102 yards and scored on runs of 32 and 12 yards. He also set up another touchdown with a 32-yard burst.

He comes off the field only for kickoffs and kick returns.

"I like defense because you hit someone on every play. But I also like to block and carry the ball as a fullback," he said.

After experiencing two 3-6 seasons, Hoscheit and his teammates are having more fun this year, despite losses to unbeaten Cary-Grove, Neuqua Valley and conference rival Batavia. After shaky starts, they felt they played Neuqua Valley and Batavia to a standstill.

"People asked me: 'Why couldn't we play some lesser opponents?' But this is a great group of kids. They proved they can play with anyone. They aren't intimidated by anyone. I'm excited by what our kids are doing. They are competing and that's all you can ask for as a coach. Everybody is dinged up and tired at this time of the year but we're still getting better," Fields said.

He wasn't so positive after going 3-6 last year.

"We had some opportunities but couldn't finish. We could have been 5-4 easily. But it didn't work out. We couldn't capitalize on opportunities. But these kids have turned close games and opportunities into victories," the coach said.

"Our juniors and seniors have meshed well together. There aren't a lot of I's but a lot of we's on this team. The kids have bought into the idea that team comes first. Even with only five returning starters, our goals were to compete for the conference title and qualify for the playoff for the first time since 2009 and we did it.

"I've been coaching for 18 years (the last four as head coach at St. Charles East) and each team is different. But this is one of the best groups I've had. They care about each other. They don't want to let anyone down. They have bought into the team concept."

The offense is led by Hoscheit, 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior tailback Erick Anderson, 6-foot, 180-pound junior quarterback Jimmy Mitchell, 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior tight end Andrew Szyman, 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior wide receiver Mitch Munroe and 6-foot, 195-pound senior guard Ian Crawford.

Anderson, who missed four games with a shoulder injury and pulled groin, is the leading rusher with 440 yards. He averages five yards per carry and also has caught seven passes for 125 yards. The Saints are 5-1 with Anderson in the lineup. Mitchell has passed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, Hoscheit, Szyman at end, Munroe at cornerback, 6-foot, 185-pound junior linebacker Michael Candre and 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior safety Anthony Sciarrino are the mainstays.

"In each of the last two years, we started 0-5. It put a damper on our mood. We lost games we shouldn't have lost. We weren't finishing games. The teams could have come together more," Hoscheit said.

"This year the juniors and seniors are a tight knit group. Losing to those three unbeaten teams was tough but we won games we should have won. Every person has each other's back, no matter if you're playing or not. Everybody is upbeat about the team and the program.

"We're not doing anything different, the coaches tell us, but the difference (between this team and the last two years) is the players are capitalizing on opportunities this year and finishing games. It's a terrible feeling to have two losing seasons in a row."

Hoscheit wears No. 34 because his grandfather and older brother once wore the same number. The fact that Walter Payton also wore No. 34 is a bonus, he said. He leads by example, not vocally. And he insists he didn't have any personal goals going into the season.

"Sure, I dreamed about playing pro baseball and pro football. But realistically I realize I'm not at that level yet. I have to keep working to have a chance to be there," he said. "But it's awesome for the coach to think I'm good enough to be defensive player of the year in the conference."

It isn't by accident. Hoscheit credits his past two years of varsity experience and his hard work for reaching such stature...getting used to the speed of the game, watching miles of film, studying each opponent, reading keys, preparing to make plays.

So how has he been preparing for Wheaton North?

"We need to have our best week of practice, mentally and physically. We haven't been perfect yet. But this needs to be perfect. We have to play a team game and play four quarters," he said.

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

MESA, Ariz. – This is a big bowl of wrong: Cubs manager Joe Maddon might have missed his only window to make the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" cameo appearance Jeff Garlin promised. 

Garlin – a Second City alumnus and one of several celebrity fans within the team's orbit – had offered Maddon a role whenever Larry David brought the band back together for the loosely scripted HBO comedy.

But last week's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore conflicted with filming in Southern California, where "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is working on a ninth season after a five-year hiatus.

"There was one matchup, and I couldn't get there," Maddon said before Sunday's World Series rematch against the Cleveland Indians at Sloan Park. "I just couldn't do it. It'll happen."

During an all-over-the-place session with reporters that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon declined to make any Oscar predictions, saying he's into Netflix and Hulu now and doesn't really go to the movies anymore.

Maddon also hasn't watched much – or any – of the World Series highlights or documentaries. When it came to the handling Aroldis Chapman part, there were some boos inside Chicago's Civic Opera House during the premiere of Major League Baseball's "The 2016 World Series."

But Maddon said he basically skipped that type of content after being Mike Scioscia's bench coach for the 2002 Anaheim Angels and managing the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series.

"You get busy and I don't know," Maddon said. "I need to start reading more and watching Netflix less."

Didn't you say that last spring?

"I did," Maddon said.

Maddon had been addicted to cable news during last year's polarizing presidential campaign: "But, damn, it's gotten really annoying, so I stopped watching all that stuff. It's just not good for your brain. It's really not. There's nothing to be gained."

When Maddon starts rolling, it's not hard to picture him in a scene with David and J.B. Smoove. Shaquille O'Neal, John McEnroe and Bill Buckner are among the sports figures with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" credits.

"That was the only day, so I don't know how we're going to figure this out," Maddon said. "First, they had one day set up, and that was going to be good. And then they had to change it to this other day, which was not good. So we'll have to (come up with something else), even if it's maybe a picture on the wall or a phone call."