Why White Sox-Schaumburg training partnership is working out so well
Way back when, I was writing a story on the White Sox's lagging attendance at the ballpark formerly known as Comiskey.
This was before the internet, when many single-game seats were purchased at ticket outlets in and around Chicago.
Rob Gallas, the Sox's VP of marketing and broadcasting at the time, gave me a heads up for the story: "Check out the ticket sales in Schaumburg."
I did, and was surprised to discover the White Sox were selling more tickets in Schaumburg than any other outlet in Chicagoland.
That story from 20-some years ago was fresh on my mind late last week while making the short drive to Boomers Stadium.
The Sox's taxi squad has been training in Schaumburg since mid-July, and it's a great pairing -- a solid connection during this summer of strange baseball.
Most MLB teams are using their nearby minor-league stadiums for taxi squad training. The Cubs, for example, are keeping their extra players fresh at Class A South Bend.
The White Sox don't have that luxury.
With three of their regular four farm teams based in North Carolina (Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Kannapolis) and the other in Alabama (Birmingham), the Sox had to look elsewhere. Schaumburg was a perfect fit.
Boomers Stadium is a short drive from Guaranteed Rate Field, the facility is in great shape and there are plenty of hotels in the area to house the White Sox's taxi squad and team of coaches and trainers.
Most of the Sox's extra players are being lodged at an extended stay to keep as safe as possible from the coronavirus.
"The feedback has been positive, just to keep things simple and controlled as much we can," said Chris Getz, the White Sox's director of player development. "I think they've made the most of this opportunity. They are very cautious with the decisions they've made. We've stressed that from Day 1 and continue to do that daily, every decision they make when they leave here or even being here, could have a negative effect.
"You hate to control too much, but we're just in a time right now that we need to continue to educate these guys and things are evolving quickly. Our guys have taken to it pretty well."
Many of the "guys" training in Schaumburg are the Sox's top prospects -- 2019 first-round draft pick Andrew Vaughn, Dane Dunning, Micker Adolfo, Jonathan Stiever, Blake Rutherford and Garrett Crochet, this year's top draft pick.
At some point this week, two promising young pitchers, Jared Kelley and Matt Thompson, are also due to report to Boomers Stadium.
With the minor-league baseball season wiped out by COVID-19, the young talent is getting needed development at Boomers Stadium even though no games are being played.
But as Getz pointed out last week, the main goal is getting Schaumburg players ready to help the White Sox this year.
Nick Madrigal, who was 4-for-5 in Sunday's win at Kansas City, joined the Sox from Schaumburg on Friday. Yermin Mercedes, Matt Foster, Ian Hamilton and Ryan Goins were also added to the White Sox's major-league roster from Schaumburg.
Next year, the Boomers are hoping to return to play in the Frontier League. For now, they are thrilled to have the Sox in their facility, and the feeling is mutual.
"We're excited for the White Sox partnership to be out here," said Michael Larson, the Boomers' general manager. "It's been fun having them out here."