All posts by andretoran2019

A Road to Revival: The state of Black baseball in Chicago

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

The state of Black baseball is in major decline. From little league to high school to college to the major leagues – the picture surrounding black participation in the sport is bleak. In this segment of  Medill Newsmakers, Andre Toran examines the reason for the decline and possible solutions.

Legacy, change, fulfillment: Northwestern’s Nick Paciorek looks his future face-to-face

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

The mid-July sun illuminated the sky above Chuckie Fick’s California home with a glow sweeter than the first bite of a summer peach. There in Fick’s backyard, Northwestern pitcher Nick Paciorek stood on the lip of a makeshift putting green, focusing on the instructions he just received. “Front shoulder uphill, front shoulder uphill. Keep your shoulder uphill.”

Formerly a catcher, Paciorek was transitioning to the mound last summer, and like a sponge, he was soaking in all the instruction he could.

Sixty feet away from him, Fick was down in a squat.

Paciorek began his delivery and propelled the ball violently through the air towards Fick– the stark white of the ball aggressively contrasting with sandy cinderblock fence in the background.

Before Fick could blink, the ball hit his glove, popping the leather like a wet towel hitting flesh.

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Northwestern’s Erro heats up in April after slow start

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

Northwestern second baseman Alex Erro walked around the batting cage into the batter’s box, swiping rubber pellets into the air as he dug his cleats into the turfed surface at Rocky and Berenice Miller park, and prepared to swing.

Line drive up the middle. Line drive up the middle. Then again, line drive up the middle. One final cut, and Erro drove deep fly ball off the left-field wall.

Swing after swing, Erro squared up balls, jumping off the bat of his compact right-handed swing, whizzing passed the mesh net that shielded Northwestern assistant coach Dusty Napoleon from Erro’s assault.

That was Erro’s second round of batting practice Tuesday before Northwestern’s matchup against UIC, a bite-size sample of what opposing pitchers have had to face over the past month, now that Erro has put early season troubles behind him.

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Tuned up: What’s behind Northwestern baseball’s air guitar craze?

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

Baseball, more than any major sport in America, is all about its unwritten rules.

Its traditionalistic nature doesn’t carry the celebratory flair basketball or football does. There aren’t pre-planned touchdown celebrations. No, ‘And one!’ screams or arms extended in celebration, as the pointer finger and the thumb meet to form a three. And no, there’s no Lance Stephenson-esque air guitars.

Instead, the celebrations baseball fans usually see occur at the close of a game (a mosh pit at home plate after a walk-off, or outfielders meeting in center field after the game’s last out for a celebratory handshake), but rarely within the game’s confines.

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Road Warriors: Inside Northwestern baseball’s rigorous travel schedule

By Andre Toran and Ben Friedl
Medill Reports

The Northwestern University baseball team has traveled 3,500 miles over the first five weekends of the 2019 season. Now, add that to the pre-existing rigors of being a full-time student athlete on the collegiate level; the art of balancing competing priorities. What takes precedent?

Here’s an inside look at the Wildcats brutal out-of-conference travel schedule, and peek into the life of a collegiate athlete: the ups, the downs, the shortcomings, the triumph.

Let’s take a ride.

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Freshman Focus: Meet the 2018-19 rookies of Northwestern baseball

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

March 7 – Episode two of Freshman Focus brings you freshman IF/OF Shawn Goosenberg. The California native talks about his commitment to Northwestern University, baseball and his decision to become a Wildcat.

Goosenberg felt he fit within Northwestern’s culture and loves the opportunities the university offers for student athletes to succeed beyond athletics once they graduate.

Northwestern Head Baseball Coach Spencer Allen emphasizes how valuable a grab Goosenberg is for the freshman class, raving about the player’s instincts and versatility.

Photo at top: Northwestern’s Shawn Goosenberg (left) lines up his defense in a matchup with Georgia Tech. (Carolyn Katz/Carolyn Katz Photography)

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Despite back-to-back no decisions, NU’s Christie right where he wants to be

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

With a full count, a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Northwestern University pitcher Hank Christie came to balance, glanced over at the Duke runner and began his delivery to the plate.

Spinning off his right hand, Christie’s breaking ball swept across the strike zone, diving toward the left-handed batter at the plate, and induced a lamentable swing-and-miss from Duke second baseman Tyler Wardwell .

That was supposed to the dagger. The knee-buckling curve Christie threw helped him to strikeout the side and preserve the 3-1 Northwestern lead going into the sixth.

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Sounds from the 704: The 2019 NBA-All Star weekend Ultimate Playlist

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C.– The NBA and hip-hop are two streets that have formed an intersection as the league has become more accepting of the hip-hop community.

The two have become intertwined, especially during All-Star Weekend, as rappers, performing artists and other celebrities flock to arguably the biggest sporting event of the year.

As J Cole and Meek Mill are slated to perform on Sunday night at halftime of the 2019 NBA All-Star game, here’s a look at some of the players’ selection of ‘go-to’ songs for their pre-game warmups and this weekend’s events.
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Danny Cares: Raptors forward champions for the humane treatment of animals

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C.– Towering over a table full of provisions and supplies, Toronto Raptors forward Danny Green anchored an assembly line with an ear-to-ear smile, ready to help.

Hopeful hearts and good intentions catalyzed the production lines at Second Harvest Foodbank of Metrolina Friday afternoon in Charlotte, as current NBA players and legends filed into the building throughout the day– joining the ranks of volunteers and Second Harvest staff for the NBA’s annual Day of Service.

Green was easily the biggest figure at his station, but it was his heart and effort that commanded the space, rather than his stature.
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Night of the Ace: Who will step up as Northwestern’s Friday night starter?

By Andre Toran
Medill Reports

That pitcher who runs out onto the mound on Friday nights is the pacesetter for the rest of the weekend in college baseball.

The first game of a weekend set is crucial to how teams tends to perform, so programs put their best guy on the mound to give them the best shot at winning Game One.

The Friday night Ace – the No. 1 starter in the rotation — isn’t afraid of the lights, the big stage, or the moment. The starter refuses to be intimidated by opposing lineups and boasts a confidence and mental fortitude that will get him out of jams. He is the leader and anchor of the starting rotation Northwestern pitching coach Josh Reynolds said.

“Your team feels that when he touches the mound, we have a chance to win this game,” said Reynolds and Northwestern has to figure out who that guy is for them in 2019.

Expect Northwestern’s decision to come sooner rather than later.

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