Next Stop: Spring Training
February 1, 2016
Final Day Review
Former White Sox All-Star Carlos May broke in with the Sox in 1968 and enjoyed a fine 10-year career, nine with the Sox. In 2016, Jacob May, Carlos’ great-nephew (and grandson of his brother and former major-league star Lee May) is a top outfield prospect in the Sox organization.
It was a special sight to see both Carlos and Jacob conducting a kids clinic and having so much fun yesterday at SoxFest (see three photos below).
Assistant General Manager Buddy Bell, Director of Player Development Nick Capra and Director of Amateur Scouting Nick Hostetler were center stage yesterday in a seminar focused on the Sox minor-league system. MLB.com’s Phil Rogers was the moderator. It was noted that it’s going to be an important year for the Sox with two first round picks–10 and 28–in a pool filled with talented college position players, high school position players and high school pitchers.
Capra told the large audience that the farm system is getting more depth and the position players will be stronger, especially at shortstop, second base and centerfield. He pointed specifically to how No. 1 prospect Tim Anderson has developed at a very fast pace.
The group was asked about how they feel when a draft choice they are high on is included in a trade to help the major-league club. Hostetler answered: “When you take a player you envision him playing in Chicago, we want that guy to play in Chicago. But it is exciting turning a draft pick into a big-league player. You still root for the individual player, but you want your team to win.”
We also learned something about Corey Zangari, who was selected because of rave reviews from a couple of Sox scouts. According to the Sox he’s a tremendous human being who knows how to play baseball. He’s outgoing and has leadership skills. A first baseman, he has power and as he gets more experienced both his batting average and power numbers will go up. Hitting coach Gary Ward and Jim Thome helped him make adjustments.
Hostetler certainly opened up eyes with his assessment of 2015 No. 1 pick Carson Fulmer. Beginning by saying the Sox drafted the best college pitcher two years in a row (Carlos Rodon was selected the year before), Nick explained, “I’ve never scouted a kid with this makeup. He’s the kind of kid I’d want my daughter to marry off the field and pitch Game 7 of the World Series on the field.”
The group was asked about players to watch in 2016. Capra offered outfielder Adam Engel, a good defender and a good baserunner who has learned how to hit and was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. “He’s a grinder.”
Head Athletic Trainer Herm Schneider and Director of Conditioning Allen Thomas talked about rehab procedure and the importance of nutrition and conditioning. Ed Farmer, who moderated the seminar, put it best: “Herm gets ’em well, Allen gets ’em stronger.”
In terms of diet, it was made clear that the Sox can control what goes on in the clubhouse, but it’s up to the players. Herm said, “We give them the best options and let them make the final decision. Ultimately they’re accountable.” Herm said a nutritionist is set to come aboard to complement what he and Allen are doing to serve the best food possible.
Both Herm and Allen acknowledged how technology has drastically changed their jobs. Thomas talked about the fact there wasn’t even a conditioning person years ago and the trainer did it all. Schneider pointed out all the treatments that are available from a full X-ray unit on site to an MRI to computerized tracking to the closer oversight of prescription drugs and drug tests.
During the offseason, both Schneider and Thomas monitor the players as to their individual rehab, things they have to work on, etc. Allen emphasized that resting and getting away from baseball a bit after the long season is imperative.
The session ended with Sox execs Scott Reifert and Brooks Boyer coming up on stage and presenting MLB Long and Meritorius Service awards to both Farmer and Schneider.
Former White Sox players Farmer, Harold Baines, Carlos May, Tom Paciorek and Mike Squires talked about the various uniforms the Sox have worn and some events that happened in those uniforms in the seminar, Sox Style: A Look Back at Sox Uniforms and the Men Who Wore Them. It was moderated by Connor McKnight. This session was especially appropriate in that the Sox have more uniforms than any other team in baseball.
The session had to be one of the most fun of the weekend with Paciorek’s hilarious brand of baseball humor and great stories from everyone. So, what are their favorite uniforms?
Tom: “My favorite was the red pinstripes.”
Harold: “You always like your first uniform…and it was the most comfortable” (the blue and white collared version).
Mike agreed with Harold: “They were comfortable, you didn’t have to tuck in the jersey.”
Carlos: “The red pinstripes, love those uniforms.”
Ed pointed to the blue with red trim road version that complemented the red pinstripes: “That’s a good looking uniform.”
Squires pretty much summed up the issue: “It’s a major league uniform, who cares what you’re wearing.”
From the Mound
Pitching was the name of the game in the session that brought pitching coach Don Cooper, starter Erik Johnson and reliever Nate Jones together with new TV voice Jason Benetti moderating.
The session was titled “Chess Game on the Mound,” but Coop said it’s more like a seek and destroy game. “We’re looking to attack and tap into the pitcher’s strengths, hit the glove game. If you’re ahead in the count, your pitching life will be most successful. Whether a starter or reliever, always attack, be confident and aggressive. The approach never changes.”
Erik, who had a bounce back year in 2015, talked about what he has learned to be successful. “Be consistent, have a day-to-day routine with non-negotiable things that make you the same guy all the time. I think the biggest thing coming to the big leagues is to be yourself. Getting better each day is what everyone is looking for in this organization.”
Nate talked about as a reliever he trusts his catcher. “He’s a big part of my plan. He’s gone over the report and seen the hitters throughout the game.” Jones also said something very telling. He says that before the game he watches video of his strikeouts. He says, “It gives me confidence.”
Johnson sort of summed up the life of a pitcher: “You get guys out, they also get you.”
Benetti also hosted the final seminar on Sunday, “Down on the Farm,” featuring prospects Eddy Alvarez, Anderson and Fulmer (pictured, in order, above).
Alvarez has a fascinating story. A 2014 Olympic silver medalist in short track speedskating, Eddy has now turned his attention to baseball and spent last year at both Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. “I prepared three and a half years for one race. You bring it all together–intensity, pressure, anxiety–for one time.”
Some interesting tidbits about Eddy: He owes everything to his parents, his brother Nick played in the Dodgers organization, former Sox pitcher Carlos Castillo took him under his wing after the Olympics and he’s very superstitious. “I always put on my left cleat first.” When the Miami native was asked about playing in the cold in Chicago, Alvarez replied: “I’ve spent most of my life on ice.” Eddy also said Ozzie Smith was his idol growing up and he hopes to do a back-flip in a major-league game. “If the opportunity comes, you might see one.”
There’s arguably no one in the Sox system that fans are looking forward to seeing in Chicago than No. 1 prospect Anderson.
Here’s a glimpse of who he is:
–“I get to the field early. I want to be the first guy there and do what I can to prepare for the game.”
–Preparation? “Keep it simple. I listen to music, mostly rap, take ground balls and BP.”
–“I love to hit.”
–On the competition among his teammates: “We’re brothers, we’re there for each other. We help each other improve.”
–On changing positions: “I’m here to prove I can be a shortstop.”
–The first autograph he signed: “Someone sent it to my college, I signed and sent it back. So cool.”
Fulmer, who was a star on the Vanderbilt team that won last year’s College World Series, talked about the experience:
“There’s nothing like it. You become brothers. You see that grow and come together. That’s why I play, I try to be a good teammate with my best friends. It was something special.”
His goal in spring training?
“You have to work hard, prepare yourself, soak up as much information as possible in big-league camp. We’re all excited to be around the Sales and Rodons…so excited to experience that.”
Here’s Alvarez on Fulmer. They were teammates last year: “He’s the most intense, motivating pitcher I’ve worked with. He generates so much power from his legs. He’s so intense it makes you hold your breath.”
A bit of irony. Carson and Sale are from the same hometown of Lakeland, Florida. “We recently played golf, went to dinner and telling me things to expect. He’s so down to earth and I’m so thankful to have a relationship with him.”
Photos of the Day
A SoxFest Day 3 gallery: Jose Abreu and a young fan separated at birth?…Sox World Champion Willie Harris…Jason Benetti and Tyler Saladino greet a group of fans…a Melky selfie…and who wouldn’t want a wake up call from Ron Kittle?