Summer Camp Diaries: Life finds a way
The first White Sox game I attended was on June 23, 1996, a day game vs. the Seattle Mariners: The thrilling walk-off win in the 10th inning, on a Ray Durham double. The Coca-Cola giveaway jersey that I loved so much, I insisted in wearing it in a school photo. (No, you may not see it.)
What I'll remember the most about that day, however, was the song Nancy Faust was playing on the organ as I stepped onto the 100 level concourse for the first time: The theme from Jurassic Park, which is still one of my favorite movies to to this day.
And as I settled into the press box at Guaranteed Rate Field for the first time during Summer-Camp-Presented-By-Camping-World, no dinosaurs were present, but those memories of being an awe-struck 10-year-old seeing the field for the first time came back. Why? Much like the 1994 movie's theme of humans dealing with natural disaster, I began to evaluate my presence at the ballpark, and role in MLB's experiment as someone who talks about — and writes about baseball.
I was well aware why I was there: to be the eyes and ears of White Sox fans eager to hear about player development, which is an immense privilege that I do not take lightly. However, with the spikes of infection across the country and the inconsistencies of testing across MLB, I think often about how the entire 60-game season could be shut down at any given moment, just like how spring training abruptly ended in mid-March. Grinding the phrase "the new normal" further into the ground seems to be a Sisyphean task: What's normal today could well, be even worse tomorrow.
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should" is an Ian Malcolm quote that's thrown around in jest when people think they've gained control over science — is it applicable to baseball in a global pandemic? As writers, we will need to carefully watch our language and make sure we treat players opting out with understanding, empathy, and privacy, where applicable. While we're telling these stories, it should be as important to care for a player's well-being as much as we care about their performance.
To get my mind off velociraptors and Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry, let's talk a little bit about Sunday's intrasquad match.
Perhaps the biggest storyline was Dane Dunning, whose recovery from Tommy John surgery in March 2019 appears to be complete. Before he was shut down in June 2018, Dunning did particularly well, going 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 116 innings for Double-A Birmingham. Sunday, Dunning threw three scoreless innings, striking out one and walking none.
Below is Dunning's take on the no-fans-in-the-stands situation, as every player seems to have commented thus far:
Though his performance was impressive today, his goals are to just make the squad and make his major league debut, as he's only started in the minors:
On the other side of the coin was the anticipated return-slash-sort-of-debut of Gio González, finally in a White Sox uniform after 16 years. González is finishing completion of rehab from a shoulder injury, and tipped his cap to both dugouts in a feigned attempt to encourage crowd noise.
In the first inning, González was the victim of a leadoff infield single legged out by Leury García, followed by consecutive walks to Andrew Vaughn and Zack Collins. Yermín Mercedes singled, scoring García. Eventually working out of that jam, the damage was fortunately limited, and induced some ground outs and pop-ups for the rest of his outing. González ended up pitching three innings, which was the most he's worked since the 2019 season.
The triumphant return of Tim Anderson's bat flip was heard 'round the world on Sunday afternoon as he took an Evan Marshall pitch and blasted it, followed by a midseason-form STICK TALK, all while appropriately dressed in a "Change The Game" workout shirt.
As if that was not enough, TA sent us home at the end of the scrimmage with another dinger to think about on the walk back to 35th Street, this time off of Carson Fulmer. Anderson now leads the White Sox on the home run leaderboard, with three.
Andrew Vaughn also homered, his first in the four intrasquad games thus far:
Because it's always a good time to talk about Yermín Mercedes, it's a an even better time to announce that he drove in two runs with a single, and made a spectacular sliding catch to rob Eloy Jiménez of a hit. And maybe his future isn't at catcher. But maybe third base? Left field? Yermín can truly do it all.
Life ... finds a way.
For those of you missing the intrasquad action, hold on to your butts: beginning tomorrow, the Summer Camp games will be streamed on NBC Sports Chicago. Check out the schedule below: