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Baseball is coming!
An African-American driver named Bubba Wallace just missed winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday (that is a big deal, people), the NBA might have actually found a compelling All-Star format, the Winter Olympics continue to thrill . . . and because I am a Chicago sports fan, today I'm focusing on baseball.
I would write more about Bubba but this is a local column and if there is anything less local around here than stock car racing, I don't know what it is.
Second there is the NBA, which stands atop the sports world right now (despite what the always delightful Laura Ingraham might think). My wife and I splurged on League Pass this season and we have thoroughly enjoyed having all the games available to us on television. The fact that she is a Celtics fan and the Bostonians have a wonderfully talented young roster led by perhaps the best point guard in the league is cool (mostly for her, of course).
There is also the fact that to basketball lovers, NBA games are oftentimes transcendent these days. And the competitive All-Star game on Sunday, with its new format of the top vote-getters in each conference becoming captains in a pick-up game, reflected that. The format counts on the competitive instincts of those captains taking over and those instincts did in fact give fans the dramatic fourth quarter of LeBron's team's 148-145 victory.
But the Bulls, while delightfully promising, still have a long way to go to be full participants in the ascendance. It was appropriate that a few young members of the local squad had roles in the festivities over the weekend but by the time the main event rolled around, they were long gone.
So back to Chicago and baseball and, specifically, the possibilities for sporting entertainment starting this weekend.
Just as when I watch college sports these days, I am often most entertained by information about which of the players involved are actual prospects and whether that status is deserved, so I am hoping to watch plenty of spring training action during the next six weeks or so looking for real promise, for the young players who deserve to be called "prospects."
And we won't have to rely on supposed experts who currently have catcher Zack Collins rated as a top White Sox prospect despite the fact that there is every reason to believe fellow Sox farmhand Seby Zavala, who is rated much further down, has much more potential.
It was Zavala who had a huge year in the White Sox system last year competing in Class A and then AA. His combined slash line was awesome - .302/.376/.485. And he led the whole system with 21 home runs.
The experts are still enamored of the fact that Collins wasn't just a first-round pick, he was a top-10 pick. And they shouldn't feel badly. Too frequently professional baseball talent evaluators working for actual teams fail to focus on actual performance, for too long preferring to rely on the most simple of criteria - where a guy was drafted.
But there is a good chance Zavala, who was taken in the 12th round in 2015, has passed Collins by. And we will have the chance to decide for ourselves in the preseason. Heck, maybe they can both play and then it starts to get very exciting for the Sox. Maybe those goofy prospect rankings might help them pump up Collins' trade value.
The White Sox' new radio home, WGN, will broadcast the call of the spring training opener this Friday. Other radio highlights from the spring will include Cubs vs. Sox games on February 27, March 10 and March 16.
(The White Sox have switched radio stations, but have they switched announcers? No. The awful Ed Farmer will still be on the play-by-play and the always trying but still too frequently dragged down by Farmer Darrin Jackson will do the commentary.)
The first TV game isn't until March 10. But the wonderful world of webcasts offers its first broadcast this Friday as well, starting at 2:05 p.m.
As for the Cubs, the television season starts on February 27 with the awesome (in comparison to the Sox radio broadcasts, that's for sure) Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies returning on the mikes. Let's get to it!
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