Guest: Adam Abdalla
- Who is closer to a championship between the Bulls and Blackhawks?
- Expectations for the Cubs and White Sox in 2018?
- Who is the best rapper alive today?
All that and more on The All Day SJ Show.
Guest: Adam Abdalla
All that and more on The All Day SJ Show.
What these Cubs mean to me…
“We Are Good.”
Three simple words by Miguel Montero that became the rallying cry for the Chicago Cubs in 2015. It has been not only the rallying cry, but a factual statement for the last three seasons. The Chicago Cubs are good at baseball.
No, like actually… well, good. Good as in you expect them to make the postseason every year. Good as in you expect them to win their division every year. Good as in you expect them to contend for a World Series every year. Good as in you no longer have to watch games thinking about how the curse is going to burn us this time.
“We Are Good,” indeed. As a die-hard Cubs fan, this team means the world to me. At only 25-years-old, I have already seen my fair share of heartbreak as a Cubs fan. It started in 1998. I was only six-years-old, but my Dad had me following along much like he did during the Bulls’ dominance in the 90s.
I had all the gear. Sammy Sosa was the greatest player ever to me. I thought Henry Rodriguez was a legend. Mark Grace was that dude. The Cubs were the greatest show on Earth. I remember Michael Jordan throwing out the first pitch in a Cubs jersey. My childhood was pretty awesome.
In 1998, we won Game 163 vs the Giants. We then proceeded to get swept three straight by the Atlanta Braves. I was devastated. Even after the Bulls had clinched another three-peat and Michael Jordan hit “The Shot,” I was still devastated that my Cubs had lost.
There is nothing like the sport of baseball. The excitement I felt whenever my Cubs were kicking ass trumped the excitement I had watching my Chicago Bulls and Chicago Bears kick ass. This was something special.
As I got older, I got smarter. My love and knowledge of the game increased. Sammy was still the man to me, but I discovered Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell.
I learned to root against the Cardinals. I learned how pesky those Houston Astros were. I always wondered why there were six teams in the NL Central.
I was used to the losing as well. The 1999 and 2000 seasons were very trying. I remember in 2001 when they got off to a great start and “swooned” throughout the remainder of the season. We won 88 games but didn’t make the playoffs. We struggled hardcore in 2002. Don Baylor was relieved of his managerial duties and we were back to square one.
“In Dusty We Trusty.”
When the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, I was excited. Here was a man who led the Giants to the World Series. He was the man who was going to do the same with the Cubs. That team was stacked from top to bottom.
The lineup was insane, including the likes of Sosa, Moises Alou, Alex S. Gonzalez, Mark Grudzielanek, Eric Karros and Damian Miller. We also boasted one of the most dominant pitching staffs in recent memory. Five arms, five studs: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement & Shawn Estes.
In-season trades made by Jim Hendry were beneficial too.
The Cubs acquired a pure leadoff hitter in Kenny Lofton and the best third baseman in Cubs history at the time behind Ron Santo in Aramis Ramirez (Yes, I’ve heard about Kris Bryant and Yes, he will undoubtedly supersede Ramirez and Santo when it is all said and done). Other veterans acquired: Doug Glanville, Randall Simon and Tony Womack helped lead the charge.
Every move hit and everything was going the Cubs way. We won the NL Central with 88 wins and we got past the obstacle that was the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. We were up 3-1 on the Marlins in the NLCS. And then…
Yea, that happened. The Cubs blew a 3-1 lead before it became fashionable.
Sorry, we had to relive it for storytelling purposes. I never blamed Steve Bartman. I instead concentrated on this play. Not enough attention is paid to the potential double play that could’ve preserved the lead and gotten out of the inning.
No, fans like narratives and the narrative was Steve Bartman cost the Cubs Game 6.
The narrative was that “The Curse of the Billy Goat” was indeed real. The narrative was this was exactly what the Cubs were destined for and nobody should really be surprised. The Cubs bowed out in Game 7 and the Marlins went on to win the World Series.
The devastation for the Cubs and the city of Chicago was real. They were so close, yet so far away. It was another season where they caught lightning in a bottle and had a chance to go all the way. It was 1998 all over again. The Cubs choked down the line in 2004 (Much like 2001) and missed out on the playoffs.
Not even acquiring Nomar Garciaparra could get the Cubs over the top in 2004 (I had to bring it up). Did I also mention the Cubs brought back Greg Maddux? So much wasted potential and talent on that 2004 team.
In 2005 and 2006, the Cubs were back in the cellar. 2005 was awesome for me because of the breakthrough of Derrek Lee. Competing for the Triple Crown throughout the season with Albert Pujols was a treat to watch as a Cubs fan.
2005 was also the year the Cubs traded Sammy Sosa and the Chicago White Sox won the World Series (Yes… they actually won the World Series). In a single year, part of my childhood was gone and the crosstown rival had just won the damn World Series.
I was not a hater. I was congratulatory. I was happy for the White Sox and their fans and they were happy to pour salt into the wounds of myself and other Cubs fans.
Privately, I always held out hope that our time was coming sooner rather than later. Until then, it was time to take all the jokes that were about to fly… for 11 more years.
“From Worst to First.”
For the 2007 season, Baker was relieved of his managerial duties. The Cubs brought in Lou Piniella. They then proceeded to go on a spending spree, completely retooling the roster.
They signed Alfonso Soriano for $136 million over eight years hit leadoff and (originally) play center field, even though he had just converted to the outfield one season prior.
They brought in Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis. They selected Josh Hamilton in the Rule 5 Draft too, but he eventually was purchased by the Reds from them.
The Cubs won 85 games and the NL Central. They got swept three straight games by the Diamondbacks. “It’s Gonna Happen” did not happen, but hey, just wait until next year.
In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games and the NL Central again. They got swept three straight games by the Dodgers. That was just cruel and unusual punishment. That just hurt.
“The Lost Seasons.”
For the 2009 season, the Cubs signed Milton Bradley. The Cubs won 83 games and missed the playoffs. It was their third straight winning season, however. This was the first time the Cubs accomplished that mark since 1972.
The 2009 season was not a complete loss at the time as Tom Ricketts and his family purchased the team. You take what you can get, because a World Series was not an option at the time.
In 2010, the Cubs regressed… winning only 75 games. The 2011 season was even worse, as the Cubs only won 71 games. Here we go again… lost seasons and a high payroll with high-priced aging veterans and a farm system that was in rough shape.
No entertaining baseball in sight. It was the same old status quo that Cubs fans had become accustomed to, unfortunately. Change needed to happen, change was on the way.
In late 2011, Theo Epstein arrived in Chicago. He was the Cubs new President of Baseball Operations. Jed Hoyer joined him as the Cubs new General Manager. A plan was set in place to completely rebuild the Chicago Cubs as a franchise and organization.
The Cubs were able to ship off high-priced, aging veterans. Soriano and Zambrano were both traded. Epstein and Co. made several astute signings and deals:
“The Plan” indeed was something worthy of a book one day. Ricketts, Epstein, Hoyer and Jason McLeod rebuilt this team and organization from the ground up. It was something the Cubs and their fans were not used to. A healthy farm system, a consistent big league product and a front office that was all-in when it came to winning a World Series.
“We Are Good.”
For the 2015 season, the Cubs blew away everyone’s expectations. In a total surprise, the team won 97 games. Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award and led the MLB in Wins. Bryant won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and made the All-Star Team. Rizzo made his second All-Star Team. The Cubs went 42-18 from August-October to finish the season.
They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. They took out the Cardinals, our arch rivals, in 4 games during the NLDS where Schwarber gave us a moment. What a time to be alive as a Cubs fan.
Then another match-up with another rival presented itself. We faced the Mets in the National League Championship Series. We were swept four straight.
It was, in my eyes, a rite of passage. This young team had to experience heartbreak before they experienced doing the unthinkable. They had to know what failure felt like so they did not have to be afraid of it anymore.
“It happened… I saw it.”
For the 2016 season, our Cubs were all in. It was World Series or bust for this team.
They brought back Fowler on a 1-year deal (“You go, we go.”). They signed Jason Heyward and John Lackey away from the Cardinals.
They traded longtime Cub Starlin Castro to the Yankees and signed World Series Champion and All-Star Ben Zobrist.
Throughout the season, slowly but surely, the Cubs added the right pieces to compliment the squad:
The Cubs won 103 games (if only they could have won 108), the NL Central and finished with the best record in baseball for that season. This was too good to be true… it felt real, it felt genuine. It just felt right.
We were matched up with the Giants in the NLDS: a stiff test in its own right. It was the even-year dynasty. The Giants had won World Series Championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. It was 2016… get those narratives and curse stories ready.
We passed the test with flying colors. Javy was “Must-See TV” when we absolutely needed him to be. KB wouldn’t let us go out like that in Game 3. In Game 4, the magic was just beginning. We took out the even-year dynasty in 4 games. One series down, two to go…
Bring on the Dodgers. It was time for payback for that 2008 postseason fail. In Game 1, Miggy, who coined the rallying cry “We Are Good,” went and backed it up… the Game 1 Hero. Games 2 and 3 were tough… we did not score a run and were down 2-1 in the series. It was go-time. The city knew it, the fans knew it… they knew it.
We came out swinging in Game 4. We tied the series at 2. Addison Russell and Jon Lester stepped up in Game 5… We took a 3-2 series lead. In Game 6, it was time to enjoy it together. We won the pennant. The Chicago Cubs were heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
The passion and celebration in Wrigley Field would only be second to one thing: Winning. The. Whole. F*cking. Thing.
We were finally there. The Cubs were in the World Series, man. I could not believe it. I was most happy for my Father.
My Dad literally had seen it all, from Muhammad Ali to the 1985 Bears to six NBA Championships to the Fire’s MLS Cup victory and three Stanley Cups. But the one thing he had never seen, his favorite team winning the World Series in his favorite sport.
It was time for the Cubs to do it. I don’t care what anyone said. It was time to nut up or shut up. Bring on the Cleveland Indians. This World Series was too perfect. Someone’s curse had to go, whether that’d be the damn Billy Goat or Ricky Colavito’s.
Schwarber, who had been out all season with a serious knee injury, made it back to join the World Series roster. He was there to DH and do whatever he could with the bat to help the Cubs make history. He became a Cubs folk hero.
And so we began… getting shutout in Game 1. Corey Kluber had got us and we knew we had to get him back at some point.
Jake the Snake picked us up in Game 2 and we tied the series at 1. We were heading back to Wrigley with a chance to make history in front of everyone. The Indians had other plans… they took Games 3 and 4 from us on our field. It was a 3-1 lead.
It couldn’t end this way… not like this. This season felt too good, too perfect. Everything was in place for us to end this damn “curse.”
We were not going to give up that easily though. We were going to get that Game 5 win, no matter what it took. KB delivered again and Chapman carried the team to the finish line. We’re heading to Game 6.
Every setback (108 years’ worth of them) was to culminate in a major comeback.
Game 7 was here, and yes, the beginning of it was something that you could predict. “You go, we go” happened one last time. We got to Kluber, payback for Game 1. We took a 6-3 lead into the 8th Inning… and then:
Not again… no, seriously?! It really sucks being a Cubs fan…
This was some sick joke… we’re literally at a loss for words. Those guys in the dugout have to be feeling the same way we’re feeling right now. If they tell you they don’t, they’re full of it.
“What the f*ck just happened? Why did that happen? Is this real life?”
“Are the Cubs really cursed to the point where their fans have to consistently live through sh*t like this?”
Then, you can’t make this up, it’s like God himself heard the prayers and saw the devastation within every Cub fan on his green Earth.
We had a rain delay in Game 7 of the World Series. It was time for the players in the Cubs dugout to collect themselves. We still had a ballgame to win.
Jason Heyward gave the greatest pep talk in sports history. The Cubs refocused on the task at hand: it was time to go win a World Series. Let’s go do it, fellas.
Michael Martinez was at the plate and Mike Montgomery was on the mound. A slow roller was hit to a smiling Kris Bryant.
Say it with me now: “The Chicago Cubs were World Series Champions!”
I saw it. My fellow Cubs fans saw it. My family saw it. My Father saw it. Since 1985, every major Chicago Sports franchise in the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB and NHL had won championships. The Cubs were finally initiated into the fraternity.
We did it for Ronnie, Ernie, Billy, Fergie and Ryno. We exercised the demons of the Billy Goat, Leon Durham’s error and Steve Bartman.
Look at us, we were the captains now. We ran the league. It was our championship to defend. I still can’t believe I can put these emotions into words right now. It’s still so surreal.
I came home from work at 2:30am that night. Me and my brother stayed up and watched continuing coverage. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited at what I just saw, what I was just a part of covering. I finally saw a team that I rooted for passionately win a championship.
This was such an awesome feeling… a feeling that I was not used to. I did not want to let it go.
After I finally got to bed and woke up later, I saw my Dad sitting in the kitchen. I told him: “We finally did it, man. We finally did it.” I remember my Dad’s eyes were a little watery. It was a moment that I would never forget.
We bonded over our favorite team going all the way in our favorite sport. Seeing my Dad happy made me happy all over again.
The Cubs were World Series Champions… and I immediately said to myself: “Let’s do it again.” I don’t care how hard it is, I want more.
Chicago is spoiled, anyway. The Bulls had two separate three-peats. The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups in eight seasons. Why can’t we be a little greedy when it comes to rings?
It’s 2017 and the Cubs are going back to the postseason to defend their World Series Championship.
Another NL Central Division title clinched and another postseason run awaiting. Why not win another one? I know it’s tough, but nothing worth having is easy. The best thing about all this: we can watch Cubs postseason baseball without the weight of the world on our shoulders. We can just enjoy the ride.
This is what these Cubs mean to me: moments with my Dad, feelings you cannot describe, watching every pitch and every at-bat and being able to say: “My team did it.”
“The Cubs are World Series Champions!” Damn right, they are. #ThatsCub, baby.
David DeJesus – In His Own Words
By Steven Johnson (@SteveJohnson_12)
Follow David on Twitter (@David_DeJesus3)
Baseball is an awesome game. The sport does so much for those who choose to play it, and if blessed enough, make a career out of it. Countless stories have been told over the course of Baseball’s history. The sport is a unique game that has attracted players from all over the world. For some, it is the only opportunity to create a better life for the individual as well as their families.
It was his faith in God, the love of his family and Baseball that gave David DeJesus that opportunity. 13 seasons at the highest professional level of the sport opened the door for him to become the Cubs Pre & Postgame Analyst at CSN Chicago.
“It’s going great,” DeJesus said. “I’m fortunate that CSN gave me the opportunity to take on this role. David Kaplan was instrumental in getting me here, and now I love it each and every day more and more. My wife (Kim) and son (seven-year-old “Spidey“) recently arrived from California, where my son goes to school, so having family here adds even more to the whole experience.”
Currently, he resides in Wheaton with his family and DeJesus also has strong “bench support” as his in-laws live nearby, allowing David and Kim to excel at their careers. DeJesus’ remarkable journey has allowed him to be in this position. The veteran outfielder spent two seasons with the Cubs and was an integral part to the rebuilding of their product on the field.
Over the course of his 13-year MLB career, DeJesus was a productive player. The veteran outfielder hit a solid .275 with 99 career Home Runs, 573 RBI, and a .761 OPS. DeJesus made quite the name for himself in Kansas City, sharing the field with legendary players such as Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Billy Butler and Zack Greinke.
In fact, when Beltran was traded to the Houston Astros in 2004, DeJesus stepped up to become one of the faces of the organization
During the 2004 season, He became the Royals everyday center fielder and finished top-10 in AL Rookie of the Year voting that season. In 2006, the Royals rewarded the pro with a five-year contract extension. In 2008 with the Royals, he finished top-10 in the American League in hitting with a .308 Batting Average. He also had an all-around productive campaign with 159 hits, 25 doubles, seven triples, 70 runs, 12 HR, 73 RBI and a .818 OPS.
However, like most professional athletes, there were bumps along the road on the way to success. During the 2010 season, DeJesus tore the right tendon in his thumb during a game against the New York Yankees. It was horrible timing for the veteran as he was hitting .318 and was on pace for a 200-hit season.
DeJesus was forced to have season-ending surgery and just like that: he was shut down. Later, after spending eight seasons in Kansas City, DeJesus was traded to the Oakland Athletics. The deal came a season before he was eligible for free agency. DeJesus, at that point in his career, found himself at a crossroads.
“That was a crazy time,” DeJesus said. “I had the worst year of my career in 2011 at Oakland. Up to that point, I was a .290 hitter and then all of a sudden I’m hitting .240. I was ashamed of walking around town. I felt like I was wearing a .240 sign on my forehead — at least that’s what I thought people saw on me…”
“I didn’t see the blessings that I had. I was still a Major League baseball player with a wife and son — so many blessings surrounding me, but I couldn’t see them because I was wrapped up in my numbers.”
However, after that tumultuous season in Oakland, DeJesus changed his approach to the game — and to life itself.
“I was still nervous,” he said. “What’s going to happen? I’ve finally made my way to free agency, but I’m coming off the worst year of my career. Will anybody want my services? My agent called me around Thanksgiving and told me that the Giants and Cubs were both interested. San Francisco was offering more money, but Chicago was now home.”
“After my difficult year in Oakland, I wasn’t too keen on going back to the West Coast, so I took less money to stay near our adopted home. With Kim’s family so close, it was the best situation for my family. Talking to Theo [Epstein], he let me know right away: ‘Dave, these are going to be two tough years, but we’re building something here.’”
Esptein joined the Cubs as their new President of Baseball Operations in 2011. The much sought-after executive left Boston after winning two World Series titles with the Red Sox. DeJesus signed with the Cubs knowing a full rebuild was taking place. DeJesus was expected to fill the role of being a veteran leader, while also showing the younger Cubs the ropes, and being a productive player on the field.
“He [Theo] wanted me back in 2010 before I got injured with the Royals,” DeJesus said. “I had Tommy John surgery on my thumb, so he was going to pick me up right before the deadline during that time but didn’t because I got injured. It came around at another time and he picked me up and I’m super thankful for that.”
DeJesus served as a mentor for several young players, such as Anthony Rizzo & Starlin Castro, and also endeared himself to Cubs fans because of his hustle, work ethic & leadership. The team struggled during his two seasons with Chicago. In 2012, the Cubs lost 101 games.
DeJesus, however, knew it was what he signed up for. Epstein made it a point to caution him of the difficult seasons that lied ahead for the Cubs organization. In 2013, he was traded from the Cubs to the Nationals (more on that later).
“It’s a funny story,” DeJesus said. “I played with the Cubs on ‘Family Day’ on a Sunday afternoon, and then on Monday morning, Kim and I are about to go to a juice bar when I get a call from Theo. That was a bit out of the ordinary, and when I answered it, Theo says, ‘David, we appreciate everything that you’ve done for us, BUT…’ And when he said that “But” word, I knew something was up.”
“BUT, you just got traded to the Washington Nationals.’ And what’s really weird is that the Nationals were coming to Wrigley to play the Cubs that very day! So I was cleaning out my locker in the Cubs’ clubhouse and walking down to the visiting clubhouse!”
DeJesus played just four games for the Nationals before he was then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Interestingly enough, while DeJesus originally signed up to help the Cubs rebuilding project, at Tampa Bay, he would experience what it was like to play for one of the central figures in the Cubs renaissance — Rays manager: Joe Maddon.
The Rays, at the time of the deal, were in the middle of an AL Pennant Race. DeJesus was counted on to bring veteran leadership, in addition to being another option for ‘Maddon & Co.’
It was a vastly different situation than the one he grew accustomed to in Chicago.
“So, I went to Joe’s office and he’s like: ‘Hey man’ and I sat down in front of him. He said: ‘I got two rules here: run the ball out and play sexy.’”
Two rules by Maddon that set the tone for the Rays. The two rules also served as somewhat of a foreshadowing to what the Cubs organization, their players & fans would become accustomed to: the future & popular Maddon catchphrases: #Respect90 and “If you look hot, wear it.”
So David, ‘Play sexy?’
“This guy came and said ‘Play Sexy,’ and I was like: ‘It’s something about that.’ It gave me that freedom to go out there and be myself.”
DeJesus instantly bought in to what Maddon was preaching. Actually, he did more than just ‘buy in,’ … he adjusted his style. As an outfielder for roughly 97 percent of his career, DeJesus served as a Designated Hitter for the Rays during his tenure there. DeJesus was serviceable in the role. In 85 career games at the position, he hit .268 with 18 doubles, two triples, eight Home Runs, 23 RBI, 32 Walks and a .795 OPS.
DeJesus credited Maddon with allowing him to be himself again, which made doing whatever the team needed to win a championship a breeze.
“That’s the thing that’s special about Joe,” DeJesus said. “He lets you take your skills and your personality, and let it play out on the field. He doesn’t restrict that. He gives you that freedom to go out and play just ‘free’. When I was with the Royals, whenever we played the Rays, we noted that their bench was always having fun. He brought ‘fun’ back into the game, and it was special. To me, as a player, I appreciated that.”
The Rays finished the 2013 season with a 92-71 record. They finished second in the AL East and beat the Cleveland Indians 4-0 in the 2013 AL Wild Card Game. They then ran into the eventual 2013 World Series Champions: the Boston Red Sox and bowed out in four games to them in the 2013 American League Division Series.
DeJesus would spend three seasons with the Rays before finishing his 13-year MLB career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A critical goal for DeJesus’ career was that he wanted to be the quintessential professional and teammate. He always wanted to be the person that teammates could come to for advice and guidance… whether it’d be their approach or just life in general.
“I just tried to be the best player and best teammate I could be,” he said. “I wanted to be a guy who could pick up teammates if they wanted to bounce something off me and an encourager to anyone who might be going through a rough time. I’ve been through highs and lows in baseball and in life, so I can share my experiences and how I handled them.”
“My time in Tampa Bay was really a cool time because I got close friendships with people like Chris Archer and have a good relationship with him. Steven Souza’s one of my good friends still, right now, Brandon Guyer and others. Baseball and life in general, is about relationships. Yes, winning is a goal, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships that you establish.”
That’s what makes the sport of Baseball special. It is about the relationships you develop with those blessed to be a part of the same fraternity that so few are in. It is about the blessings and success that you get from the game after you work hard and sacrifice so much to get to that level. It is even about finding something outside of the game… something DeJesus is very proud to declare.
“Can I tell my story?” DeJesus asked me before concluding our interview.
It is a story that needs to be told.
“Throughout my career, I attended Baseball Chapel pretty regularly. I thought it was the right thing to do. But during the 2011 season in Oakland, when I was struggling with my game, I realized that I couldn’t do this game of baseball and more importantly, this game of life, by myself. I realized I needed a Savior.”
“I was in Toronto on a Friday night. I just… I just broke down in my hotel room. The pressure of being a husband… a new Dad… hitting in the low .200’s… It broke me to a point where I prayed, ‘Lord, I cannot do this myself. Lord, I want you to take these burdens off me…because you said you would.”
“At that point, I knew that Jesus Christ was behind me! Christ was in my heart and I knew that I didn’t have to ‘perform’ any more to experience ‘worth.’ Everything has already been done for me through Christ’s death and resurrection!”
“I thought being a Christian meant ‘doing things’ — ‘earning’ my salvation. But once you accept Christ into your life, you receive His free gift! Now it’s living in that grace and that love that God has for me! And that has been my motivation every day since that night in Toronto! I’m so thankful for everything — including my new role with CSN — and trying to raise my son to know Jesus Christ.”
David’s test in life was his testimony. Because he gave his life to God, he is being blessed in abundance. His test was indeed his testimony. He is not only living his life for his family and his love and passion for the game of Baseball, but because of his love, passion and appreciation of our Lord and Savior. It is an important lesson in life that has always stood the test of time.
Now, DeJesus is at peace with where God has brought him. He is enjoying his role as the Cubs Pre & Postgame analyst for CSN. He acknowledges that there are differences in being a player and an analyst, but welcomes the challenge of walking that line between player and analyst.
“The hardest thing is calling it out because we’re so engrained in us when it comes to picking each other up. That’s the toughest thing to do, because it’s hard to get away from the ‘Big League Mentality’ when I’ve been in there for so long.”
It has been an interesting transition for DeJesus thus far, but he has been helped by numerous people along the way. In addition to his faith in God, the DeJesus family and other colleagues have been instrumental in his shift to television analyst.
“Dave Kaplan has been a great help for me,” he said. “This guy has helped me out. We’ve watched tape together. We’re always talking and he’s giving me little tips. He’s patient with me and I’m so thankful that he’s opened himself up to help me out. I never would have thought if you said three years ago that I would I be an analyst for a baseball team or a baseball game. I’d say ‘No way,’ because I never really thought I was comfortable behind the camera. You never really know.”
DeJesus treats every show just like he treated every game in his career. He gives 100% in his preparation and is always eager to improve and learn more about the business but there’s one thing he absolutely does before every show. It is his current ‘Pregame ritual.’
“I pray each and every day before I get on that TV,” he said. “Because I know that I can’t do this by myself. The Lord is always there behind me.”
Whether it is baseball, working in television or living his everyday life, DeJesus has an outlook on life that can be applied to any facet of it:
“Let me be a guy that can walk alongside of somebody, put my arm around them and be like: ‘Hey man, it’s OK, we’ll get them tomorrow,’ he said. “That’s the cool thing about Baseball, both in watching it and playing it.”
His testimony truly is the story of a lifetime…
Today’s guest: @RyanMcGuffey
As a Production Assistant & Associate Producer at CSN Chicago, I have a lot of ambition. Working in the world of sports broadcasting, there is a lot of opportunity to tell stories and be a part of something memorable.
I have seen and worked with a lot of “names” in our industry, but what people do not realize is that there is always the “story behind the story.” It is not just about the people who bring you those features or the subjects that they are about. No, there are always those who bring you the moments that you did not or would not know even happened.
Enter Sr. Producer of Original Content at CSN: Ryan McGuffey.
“Guffman,” as I know him, has seen and done a lot in our business. He is the man behind “5 Outs,” “Believe: The Story of the 2005 White Sox,” and most recently: “Reign Men.”
You have seen him on television during Chicago White Sox broadcasts or on CSN news programs such as “In The Loop” & “In The Loop: Prime.”
You have heard him on several Chicago radio stations, sometimes as a host as he did with David Haugh on the “Kap & Haugh” show.
However, what stands out about The “Guffman” is that he does not take himself too seriously. Honestly, you probably would not have known about all he’s accomplished if I did not list it.
It is not something he boasts about. He is fortunate to have been a part of a lot of historic moments; however, it is the humble approach he takes when it comes to what he has done in this business.
“Never forget where you come from,” he always tells me. It is that honest approach that keeps McGuffey grounded. He never takes what he does for granted and it is that which motivates him to keep working hard and telling stories.
So how did we get here? Let’s hear from the man himself:
“When I was four or five-years old, I can remember broadcasting Nintendo games,” McGuffey said.
“When I was home, we had this projection-screen TV when I was a little kid. I remember we got it for the Super Bowl when the Bears were playing in 1986 and I thought we were like the richest family on the block, and we weren’t, but it had the slide bar for the volume on it and when I was at home at night and the Bulls were playing, I would run downstairs and turn all the lights off and slide the thing all the way off and then would do: ‘AT GUARD, FROM NORTH CAROLINA!’”
“It was in my blood, I don’t know why or how. My Mom & Dad weren’t big sports fans but it was always my passion for as long as I could remember. I was broadcasting the games, I played sports and from the time I was eight or nine-years old, the people I wanted to be were the people I saw on TV. It just stuck; I knew what I wanted to do all through high school and when I got to college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It’s very rare, I know that. When you’re 17 or 18- years-old, no one knows what they want to do… and I did.”
“Luckily, I just worked hard & I stayed with it. Like I’ve always told you: ‘You have to kick down your own door;’ and once you get in: keep kicking it down because I feel when you get in, it’s your responsibility to keep going… and here I am.”
Even though McGuffey’s journey started off as an eight-year-old kid, he continued to hone his skills throughout his growth in the world of sports.
While attending DePauw University, he was a three-year letterman for the DePauw Football team, a four-year letterman & two-time captain for the Track & Field team and also served as the Assistant Sports Director for WGRE Radio. He was also an active member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.
“I found a place I was happy enough to call home,” McGuffey said. “I love DePauw; I loved everything it did for me. I continue to love it. I have a passion for that place because I feel like it was a huge inspiration for me being here today.”
“I try to give back to them and the students who reach out to me. I didn’t have all that necessarily with people reaching out back to me at the time. It’s just so valuable for kids, whether it’s DePauw, Illinois or Indiana, whatever it is… you still see people that have passion: that to me is the best part.”
After graduating from college in 2001, McGuffey was like most graduates when it came to finding the right gig after school. He worked with his family’s small business until one day he decided he had to take matters into his own hands. He was hired as a Production Assistant & Associate Producer with Fox Sports Net Chicago (where he interned in 1999).
“One day, I just called this phone number that I had,” McGuffey said. “I called this guy, a DePauw connection that was working at Fox Sports Net and he kind of wrote me off… and he told me as much because I didn’t keep in touch for a little while.”
“He gave me a guy’s phone number, a name & a phone number: Dan Lafferty. He was the Executive Producer and that was it. That was all he gave me. It was up to me to do something with that number. Keep in mind: it wasn’t like texting. E-mailing was an option… but from a computer, because cell phones were still really new. I didn’t have one in 2001. So I called the guy, every single day for 17 days… and he never picked up.”
“Every day, I left a message. Every day… and on the 17th day: he picked up. He said: ‘Hey, I’m Dan Lafferty.’ I froze because I didn’t expect him to pick up & before I could say my name, he said: ‘You’re Ryan McGuffey,’ and I’m like ‘Yea.’ He said ‘could you come in today at 3:00?’ and I was like: ‘Yes.’ I think I was in his office for maybe 10 minutes.”
From there, McGuffey was hired as a freelancer. He was allowed two days to train and was assured that if he caught on quickly; they would try to call him every day if they could. McGuffey proceeded to work 22 straight days after the meeting.
“It was persistence,” McGuffey said. “Like I said, when you get an opportunity, kick down the door. I got hired full-time three months later. I got laid off four months after that. After September 11th, there were huge layoffs. They let 100 people go and we had to stay here two weeks to get severance packages. I was devastated. I was 22-years-old and I just didn’t expect it. I was so happy to have this job.”
“It happened, and I got called into the same guy’s office. He said: ‘Look, they’re going to rehire like three people. Not for what we’re doing right now. I know it’s not what you want to be doing but if you want the job, you should consider it.”
McGuffey was convinced he was not going to take the job. He went home one day, however, and had a conversation with his mother. Not only did his mother encourage him to take the job, she raised a good point when it came to McGuffey’s dilemma: “Take the job, if you want to find another job afterwards, ok but stay on board.”
“It was a rough three years,” McGuffey said. “It was fine for like the first 15-18 months. Then, the last 18 months, it was rough. It was more like administrative, 9-5 stuff. Not that I don’t like 9-5 but it just wasn’t production.”
“So I would keep my nose in the production mess over here by helping out with ‘Pro Football Weekly’ while I was doing my normal job. I just needed to feed that fire. CSN came along in 2004 and I was right about at the end of my bridge. My bridge was almost up at the end of that other job. If CSN had been another year, I don’t know if I would’ve waited… but it all worked out.”
From there, McGuffey continued to hone his skills in all facets of the sports broadcasting field. He started at CSN as an Associate Producer for seven months before being promoted to Booking Producer in February 2005.
After working in that role for three years, he produced the popular “Monsters in the Morning” show, which was hosted by Mike North & Dan Jiggetts. He also served as head producer of “Chicago Tribune Live,” now known as “Sports Talk Live” on CSN.
McGuffey continued to pay his dues as a producer. He served as CSN’s Coordinating Producer for two years, a role in which he oversaw all of the daily content on the station.
In April 2013, McGuffey moved into the role he continues to have today at CSN: Sr. Producer of Original Content.
“I never stopped doing things on the side,” McGuffey said. “Because I love to be creative, I love to feed my own beast and that’s kind of how it all led to where I am at now. With Original Content, which I give Kevin Cross [CSN’s News Director] beyond so much credit because it’s truly what I feel I should be doing.”
“It took a long time. It took a lot of different paths and detours to get to a spot where I feel I truly am doing something with my talent that makes sense for it. You need time to figure out who you are; you need time to figure out if the career is right for you. It’s like any career: you have to have a lot of downs & you have to have some ups, then you have to sort through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”
“Luckily & fortunately, I have been able to do that. I don’t know what the future holds… but I like where it’s at right now.”
Original Content at CSN has an impressive library of content thus far:
McGuffey is always one step ahead when it comes to his next feature.
How did this event get to that point that’s being talked about nonstop? McGuffey always asks himself different questions when approaching his features & it frames the story structure. It’s a deliberate process & it is very detailed…
“In 2013, we did ‘5 Outs’ and it was really good,” McGuffey said. “I was excited. We told some stuff that had never been told… like players buying plane tickets home during the series. At the time, I was so excited about ‘Ok, we got Moises Alou.’ I didn’t care about anything else. I didn’t care about how it looked, I didn’t care about where it was, and I didn’t care about what he had on.”
“It didn’t impact the show but it did impact maybe the look, whereas now, everything to me is thought out. I know we’re going to get the interview. I’m just confident. We’ll get Jason Heyward, what’s the room like? Is it going to be in this room? What time? What’s the day look like? What are our lights situations? Should we go to the room an hour, two hours early? That’s all a part of the content creation part.”
McGuffey focuses on what is not obvious. We all know the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. We all know the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. We all know about the Bulls & Blackhawks dynasties. But what are the stories behind them? What went on behind the scenes to get those teams to that point of accomplishment?
“I was at Game 7 (of the 2016 World Series) and I knew there was other stuff going on that needed to be told,” McGuffey said. “I watched Game 7 six or seven times before I did these interviews and I think the art and crafting process has changed the longer I’ve done this. Not just for what I do & we do, but for everybody.”
“If you look at [ESPN’s] 30 for 30 from where it started vs 30 for 30 now, it just destroys the original product… and that’s just because they are getting better. They’re putting more resources into it. That’s a good example too: that people want it. People want that stuff. They think about that ‘What if I told you…’”
“There is something. The Cubs didn’t just win because there was this rain delay. There was legitimate doubt and concern from the players. They felt like you did at home. I don’t think people thought about that. People didn’t think those guys felt the emotions that fans do, but it turns out they are human beings.”
“My goal is to humanize these guys… to realize: ‘Yea, he makes $25 million and we’re only sitting three feet from each other… but it’s just two guys talking.”
McGuffey’s story itself is “the story behind the story.” Yes, he’s accomplished a lot and continues to create and tell stories. He loves what he does and he is truly fortunate. But he never forgets what he had to go through and what journey he had to take to get to this point.
It all would not have happened if he didn’t call for 17 straight days about a job. If wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t take his mother’s advice. It wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t have to experience the lows of doing a job he didn’t want to do.
Hell, it wouldn’t have happened if the bridge didn’t stay strong for one last week…
McGuffey wants those to know the story is still being written, while also encouraging others to keep “kicking down that door.”
“There definitely is more,” McGuffey said. “I want to keep telling stories that haven’t been told or maybe some stories that have been told: but differently. I want to keep pushing the envelope… further & further, whether it’s here or down the line… wherever it is.”
“I want to raise the bar of expectation, not for those around me but for myself too. For my bosses, for the people all the ways up the ladder. For people who don’t even know me yet. Maybe I am a little more cognizant of my name now than I have been in the past… whereas, I want people to say: ‘Ryan McGuffey was involved in that.’”
“I have more confidence. There’s proof out there, so I should. That could sound arrogant and cocky but I think it’s more of a humbling process for me to get to that point. I want to keep doing Original Content, 100%. I do not want that to change. That passion is very much alive.”
What should all the aspiring producers do to get to this level, though?
“Test your limits,” McGuffey said. “Push yourself. Challenge yourself to do something that maybe you think you can’t do. Don’t just come in here and swipe in. Don’t come in the door to just be content. That’s probably the best way to say it.”
We’re already on our way…
Follow Ryan McGuffey on Twitter: @RyanMcGuffey
Follow me on Twitter: @SteveJohnson_12