CHICAGO -- When Karen Rand met with President Barack Obama while hospitalized after surviving the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, she casually mentioned a trip to Chicago she was taking with her boyfriend this summer.
Obama told Rand that when they were in Chicago, he wanted to make sure she had a really nice trip. But Rand never expected the first-class treatment she received Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, including throwing out one of the ceremonial first pitches to Chris Sale and receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, followed by a playing of "Sweet Caroline."
"I thought we'd be in the box and maybe people would wave. I didn't know what to expect, but not this," Rand said. "This is amazing. It's being treated like royalty and we're really just humble, simple people, so it's really nice for us to be out here. We're really enjoying it."
Rand lost her lower left leg and her close friend, Krystle Campbell, as they waited for Rand's boyfriend, Kevin McWatters, to finish the Marathon. Rand was physically harmed, but her positive spirit clearly has persevered.
She smiled and talked with players and members of the White Sox organization, taking pictures on the field with her friends before the game. Being Boston natives, though, their excitement level jumped when one-time Red Sox and current A's outfielder Coco Crisp came over to chat during batting practice.
After meeting with Obama, Rand was put in touch with the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The office then set up Saturday's special day with the White Sox.
"It's so nice. It was nice all the support I had and that the President was one of the first people to come in and see me," Rand said. "Since then it's been really great, checking in on us and making sure that while we were out here we would have a good time.
"Truthfully, I have been really, really excited to come to Chicago, and we planned this trip before this happened. I was bound and determined that no matter what I was still coming, so I'm so happy we're here today. It's so nice."
Ventura committed to honoring his contract
CHICAGO -- Whether the struggling White Sox hold the disappointing course and hope for positive change or engage in a rebuild process before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, manager Robin Ventura isn't going anywhere.
Ventura has one year left on his deal after the 2013 season, and he made it clear during Saturday afternoon's pregame media session that he is entirely committed to honoring that deal.
"For one reason or another, there's a whisper that because it's going like this, I'm not going to come back. That's the furthest thing from the truth," Ventura said. "I'm in it for as long as I'm in it, and then you go from there.
"A situation like this, I would be ashamed to walk away just because it's tough. I think that's part of being in it with these guys. I'm here as much as they are, as far as turning it around and being ready to go."
When asked if the "walk away" reference dealt with this season or after the 2013 campaign, Ventura said "any of it."
"It's just one of those, I know I have my contract and it's going to go to there, and then you talk again," Ventura said.
The last two days marked a brief respite from baseball for Ventura, who returned home to California for one of his daughter's high school graduation and his son's graduation from junior high school. He was able to monitor the games, although he didn't see them pitch for pitch.
He did catch the end of the 16-inning victory Wednesday in Seattle at the airport, having to leave early from the 5 1/2-hour affair to get back for the graduation festivities. Ventura understands the last two losses have been tough for his team, much like the entire season, but he also refuses to let his team get down, let alone give up.
"You keep going," Ventura said. "You can ... sit there and think something bad is going to happen, or you can change it. We have to find a way to change it.
"There's no reason to feel sorry or get down. Again, you have to look at where you are at and what the possibilities are and realize you should enjoy it. It's harder sometimes than others. Again, there are worse situations out there."
La Russa in Chicago to celebrate '83 White Sox
CHICAGO -- To the surprise of many, including Tony La Russa, the man who posted 2,728 victories as a manager does not miss the job.
"I don't miss managing," said La Russa, outside the home clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field prior to Saturday's game. "But I miss the winning and losing.
"That's all I ever did for 50 years. At the end of the day, you are either happy or sad. But no, I had my time. I passed the baton and now I see how much fun it is to second guess."
La Russa was in Chicago on Saturday, along with Greg Luzinski, LaMarr Hoyt, Ron Kittle and Mike Squires, for a private reception honoring the 30th anniversary of their 1983 'Winning Ugly" American League West champions. La Russa mentioned that he had voted for this weekend with the White Sox playing the A's, whom La Russa managed for 10 years.
That 1983 squad shares an unwanted common bond with the 2013 version of the White Sox, in that La Russa's crew floundered out of the gates to a 16-24 record and sat seven games out of first on May 29. They finished the season with 99 victories.
"Sometimes when you struggle, that's when teams fall apart. They start pointing fingers. We just stayed close, stayed close and kept competing, and pretty soon they got it straight," said La Russa of '83. "Then we started rolling. That was a nice test of our tightness. It can get away from you in a hurry if you aren't careful. They refused to not come together.
"One of the beauties of the season is it's six months. You just can't get discouraged and you can't try to fix it all in one day. Just do the thing right bit by bit and it gets better. It's a test over six months. They have a great attitude here. Good coaching staff. Robin [Ventura] is solid. They will be fine."
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and La Russa hold a brotherly bond dating back to La Russa's days as White Sox manager from 1979-86. But don't look for La Russa to return to the White Sox in any sort of official capacity.
"That'd probably be the worst way, that'd be the end of our relationship," said La Russa with a laugh. "I think the city has really come to realize what a gift [Reinsdorf] is as an owner.
"Both franchises [the White Sox and Bulls], he really cares, he really doesn't want it for himself. He's got a legion of friends and family like myself that he takes care of. I have no better friend than Jerry Reinsdorf, and I pull hard for him and his teams, both of them."