Sports

Inside the Cell on game day

Fireworks. Food. If you're lucky, a victory. You'll find all this at a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field. Though while you're watching the action, a small army works to make fans feel at home—even when the team's record makes spectators a bit uncomfortable.

RedEye recently was granted exclusive access to see what goes on behind the scenes while the players are on center stage.

Head executive chef Olegario Soto

With the spread Soto cooks up every game, chances are your mouth would be drooling for a sample of everything.

Soto oversees every dish displayed for consumption. From meat hand cut in Galena to handpicked vegetables prepared in multiple oils, the Sox strive to have something for everyone.

Assuring everything's up to snuff can make for a really, really long day.

"I arrive at the ballpark at 8 a.m. and leave around 10:30 [p.m.], about the time the game is over," Soto said. "New meat arrives every day, and it takes quite a bit of time to cook and cut it. Some meat can take up to 16 hours to cook."

Technical director Rocco Fusco

If you're wondering what NASA looks like, the Sox's scoreboard room will give you a pretty good idea. The space is covered wall to wall with cameras showing almost every angle of the ballpark. They can even see you eat nachos or sip on a soda—not in a Big Brother way, though.

Every camera has a button that controls it on a video board. Visiting with Fusco before a recent game, everything was calm. But once the first pitch was delivered, the atmosphere flipped in a heartbeat, as he became the assistant producer, listening to what cameras to switch and what button to hit.

However, much of Fusco's work takes place before the game starts. You know all those video montages? Well …

"A minute video spot takes about a week to produce and edit, and then the easy part is playing it back onto the scoreboard," he said.

Public address announcer Gene Honda

One Sox voice is recognizable throughout the stadium. Gene Honda has been with the Sox for years and has a certain pace for each game. In front of him is a binder with all his reads along with a headset and a microphone connected to not only the speakers in the stadium, but to the producers in the scoreboard room.

It's Honda's job to introduce each player, which means becoming acclimated to some fairly unusual names.

"There's a rhythm with tough names to pronounce; you just have to get it through it," he said. "After doing it for so many years you get used to the pronunciation and just have a certain flow that follows it."

Honda also is the PA announcer for the Blackhawks, and he has to keep his sports straight, of course.

"When I start calling out hockey names during baseball games or vice versa, I think it's time to retire then," he said jokingly.

Official scorekeeper Bob Rosenberg

There isn't much equipment when you see the official scorekeeper's area. Bob Rosenberg has his official scorebook, a phone and a microphone to apprise people of his decisions.

"Everything I do is on paper," he said. "No other scorekeepers use anything digital to keep score. Paper is still the preferred method. "I have saved all my scorebooks over the years and they are stacked at my house going back into 1987. When I go home I copy all the stats into my own book."

Rosenberg also can be the one who stands in the way of a pitcher's perfect game or a player's hit streak. With that kind of power comes an occasional difference of opinion.

"I've had coaches speak their mind on rulings I've made before," he said. "It's an interesting discussion."

White Sox Pride Crew

"Can I have a T-shirt?"

That's the No. 1 question asked of Pride Crew members as they make their way around the ballpark. They have heard every reason in the book, from "this is my first game" to "my birthday is this week."

The crew is constantly on the move and has little time to watch the game. They meet a lot of different people every game and are always looking for people to participate in promotions.

"There's 32 pride members, and during weekday games there are 12 people working," crew member Christa Kucik said. "On Sunday games there are 20-plus people working because it's family day and plenty of kids' activities [are] taking place."

Pssst. The crew has an insider tip: If you want to be picked for a promotion, arrive early.

"When the gates open, we will go out through the ballpark and look for certain ages depending on the promotion," crew member Mitch Mangoba said. "We usually pick them way before the game starts and explain things."

Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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