staff sports

ok well im off to bed exo was so worth the pneumonia i’m probably going to get from standing out in the cold and downpour of rain for Ever

Nursey wins a poetry contest and brings Dex as his plus-one

Cross posted on ao3 here

“Uh, hey.” Nursey cleared his throat and leaned against the doorjamb that lead into their attic. Dex glanced up from his laptop, raised an eyebrow at him and went back to tapping at his keyboard.

“Hey.” Dex said, his voice crisp in the way that usually meant that he was working on a particularly tough line of code and he didn’t want to be disturbed, Nurse, god, could you fuck off for half a second?


“You got a minute? I want to ask you something.” Nursey crossed the room to sit at his desk chair backwards, legs on either side of the back. He bumped his desk and the coffee can full of pens wobbled, then clattered to the floor. He and Dex both sighed at the sound.

“What do you want, klutz?” Dex asked, lifting his eyes but not his fingers from his laptop. Dex continued to type as he looked Derek in the eye, which was not only, like, totally creepy but also kind of showboating.

“So, I kind of… Won an award? For some poetry. And it’s not really a big deal, but there’s like, a dinner thing in the city for me and some of the other winners.”

Dex finally stopped typing.

“And the invite has a ‘plus one’ spot. So, I mean, I was wondering if…” He trailed off, suddenly certain that this was a stupid idea. He should have asked anyone other than Dex, fuck, what was he thinking?

“If I’d be your plus one?” Dex finished for him, not sounding amused.

“Yeah, pretty much, yeah.”

“When is it?”

“Saturday. This Saturday. I know it’s kind of short notice.”

Dex leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. When he spoke, it was to the ceiling.

“I’ll go. Do I gotta wear a suit?”

Derek was momentarily stunned into silence, whether at the fact that Dex had actually agreed or the thought of him in a suit, he wasn’t sure.

“Uh, I don’t think it’s that fancy. I mean, probably like, a tie and shit would be fine.”
“Cool. You driving?”

“Yeah,” Nursey said. “And I was thinking we could spend the night at my moms’, if that’s chill. It’ll probably be kind of a late event, and I thought we could drive back Sunday morning.”

Dex shrugged. “Fine by me. Not like I had any plans for this weekend.”

“Great. S’wawesome.”

Dex glanced back at his computer screen, then up at Nursey.

“Yeah. Well, if that’s all…” He said, pointedly resuming his typing. Nursey made a hasty exit, nearly clobbering himself on the low support halfway down the stairs to the second floor. He didn’t know if he was more surprised that Dex had agreed so easily or that he had seemed damn near enthusiastic about it.

“Jesus fuck, Nurse.” Dex hissed, his fingers flexing. “I didn’t know…”
Nursey felt himself frowning and turned to look at his plus one. Even in his head, he didn’t dare use the word ‘date.’ Dex looked uncomfortable, fidgeting with the collar on his shirt and fucking up his tie. Nursey sighed and reached over to straighten it for him, smoothing down the lapels of his jacket that Dex had insisted on bringing, and seemed grateful for now.

Everyone milling about was in formalwear, even the staff sported crisp black waistcoats.

“Didn’t know what?” Nursey frowned.

“I didn’t- You said it was ‘no big deal.’” Dex’s face was flushing steadily dark enough to conceal his freckles, his ears glowing red. Derek had a comical mental image of Dex’s head swelling red then bursting like an irate cartoon.

Nursey looked around, shrugged. “I mean, it’s just a dinner, Dex. There will be some speeches, I’ll read a poem, people will clap politely then we can leave. Okay?”

Without asking him if he wanted any, Nursey snagged two champagne flutes from a passing waitress and handed one to Dex, who held it like he’d never held a piece of stemware in his life before. Which actually, Nursey thought, might be true.

“Dude,” Dex said through his teeth. “This is like, fancy.”

Nursey looked around. It wasn’t the most highbrow event he’d attended, that was sure, but he supposed that maybe this was all a bit much depending on what one was used to.

“Sorry,” he blurted. “I didn’t mean- Like, are you uncomfortable?”

Dex glowered and downed his champagne in one go. Nursey cringed at seeing champagne that probably cost more than a car per case being taken as grimly as a shot of Smirnoff, but he decided not to point it out.

“It’s fine,” Dex said. “It’s just… It’s weird. Not what I was expecting.”

Nursey felt guilty, as if he’d been remiss in warning his friend what the evening might entail. Certainly he’d be doing a lot of networking, hoping to make connections for after graduation, which loomed only months away, but he’d assumed that Dex would just hang out while he did.

“I’m sorry.” He said again, reaching out to squeeze Dex’s forearm. “I didn’t think, that’s my bad.”

Dex shrugged him off, looking around curiously. “It’s fine, dude, don’t apologize. I’m fine.”

Nursey swallowed his concern. Dex was an adult, if he was uncomfortable, he’d say so. He knew that much, at least. With that decided, he put on his sweetest smile and struck up a conversation with the man standing next to them.

The dinner itself was impressive. Trays and platters were brought out, waiters ducked in and out of the tables to refill drinks and trays alike. Nursey kept up animated conversation with the half dozen other people at their table, introducing Dex only briefly as ‘a friend from Samwell.’ The woman to his right was a publishing executive that had given him her card with a wink, telling him to get in contact after graduation.

Dex was quiet, surprisingly so, and sampled everything that came his way with an air of caution, though he appeared to like everything he tried. A literature professor from some prestigious university gave a speech (dry, trying too hard to be funny), a young Chinese woman that had won first place last year gave a speech (witty, actually funny), then several more guests spoke, trying to seem as humble as possible while casually reminding everyone that they were the generous donors that had provided the opulence surrounding them, not to mention the awards for the winners.

Nursey half listened and clapped politely when everyone else did, more focused on watching Dex grapple with stalks of asparagus, or tear his bread into pieces with a ferocity that Dex usually reserved for the ice. Saving that information for later chirping, Derek almost missed when they called his name.

The honorable mention and third place winners had already been recognized, receiving their plaques and shaking hands with several people that Nursey lazily supposed he should give a shit about, seeing as they were the ones that had judged his poetry and found it worthy of second place, but to him, they just looked like a bunch of boring old white people.

Standing too quickly and almost toppling his chair, he made his way through the small round tables until he reached the podium where people had been speaking. The woman in charge gave him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes and stepped aside, gesturing for him to speak into the microphone.

“Uh, good evening, everyone. Thanks so much for coming tonight, we all really appreciate it.” He said, his voice smooth from years of public speaking practice even though his heart was hammering inside his chest. He could feel it when he reached into the pocket of his suit jacket, pulling out a crumpled piece of computer paper.

“It’s my honor to be hear tonight, and a big thanks to the committee for that.” He paused while there was some brief clapping, then ducked his head to smile. “And it’s an honor to have been asked to read a poem of mine here tonight, as well.” He cleared his throat and pushed back his shoulders, looking out into the crowd.

Dex’s eye caught his and he smiled, flushing with pride that Dex was here with him, here to see his accomplishments.

He didn’t need to look at the paper to remember the words, but it helped him feel grounded to hold the age-softened paper in both hands as the words poured out, well rehearsed and melodic.

When he finally fell silent, there was a hush over the crowd before people began to clap. He winced a bit at that- wasn’t that a bit unusual, applauding for poetry? -But when he saw Dex clapping with the rest of them, his face relaxed into a smile and he gave a goofy half-bow. The woman who had been speaking before took back the microphone and announced his prize: a $5,000 check along with his plaque.

Pleased, Nursey took both the plaque and the envelope, shaking hands with and thanking sincerely each of the patrons of the arts that stood off to the side before making his way back to the table, smiling the whole while.

When he got back to the table, Dex’s chair was empty but for Dex’s jacket, which he’d hung up once they sat for dinner. Nursey frowned, setting his awards on the table next to his wine glass and sitting, trying to pay attention as the first place winner was called up, a beautiful girl wearing a hijab that, when she read her poem, the words fell more like music than speech. Nursey was enthralled, almost enthralled enough to forget the empty seat beside him. He clapped as she accepted her awards and posed for pictures, wondering where the hell Dex had gotten off to. Maybe to top up his drink at the bar? Anyway, he ought to have been back by now.

Nursey was craning his neck to look around the dining hall when he felt a tap on his shoulder from the woman on his other side. “I think your friend went to refresh himself in the washroom.” She said in a way that indicated she knew exactly what his poem had been about. He thanked her and stood, as unobtrusively as possible to make his way to the door as the final speech began.

He followed a waitress’s directions to find the absurdly posh bathrooms, pushing his way inside. What sort of bathroom had a set of couches? Honestly.

“Dex,” he said, his voice betraying his belief when he saw the broad expanse of his friend’s back, his arms braced on either side of one sink and his head hanging. His head snapped up and he made eye contact with Nursey in the mirror before turning around.

“Hey.”

“Was wondering where you wandered off to. I need to get you one of those bells. Like, for cats.” He chirped weakly, trying not to feel put out that Dex had scampered off to hide in the bathroom during one of the proudest nights of his life.

“Pretty sure those are to scare off birds or some shit.” Dex gestured around with one hand, taking in the cloth towels and antique faucet fixtures. “Whatever. You found me.”

“Right.” Nursey said. “I did. I found you in the bathroom. Why are you in the bathroom?”

Dex looked skittish, then his brows furrowed and his shoulders squared and he didn’t look skittish, no, he looked pissed. Nursey backtracked through the evening, wondering what the hell he had done to incur the wrath of Will Poindexter.

“You- All those people- They think we’re dating!”

Nursey went very quiet. He should have fucking seen this coming.

“They all think that your random ass poem was about me. I even came as your date, hell.” Dex said, spitting the words as if they were bitter on his tongue.

“Oh, because it’s so fucking terrible to-to have people think you’re in love with a guy?” Nursey said, grasping at straws and coming up short. For a reason he didn’t want to examine, what hurt him the most was that Dex seemed so appalled by the idea of being Derek’s date that he’d had to escape to the bathroom to throw a tantrum in peace.

Dex’s eyes narrowed and he threw his arms out wide, as if to take up as much space, make himself look as big as possible. “That’s not the fucking point, Nurse!”

“Then what is?” he asked, his voice calm even though he felt like his entire body was shaking. Dex fixed him with a glare and stormed out of the bathroom without answering.

Nursey took a few moments to splash water on his face and glower at his reflection before following him back to the table, feeling as if his tail was between his legs. When he returned, Dex was firmly in conversation with a woman at their table, all the while dipping his spoon into his chocolate mousse distrustfully.

Derek sulked quietly, accepting handshakes and business cards but unable to
force a smile. Good, he thought. Lardo was always saying he needed to work on his brooding artist face.

After an agonizing half hour, Derek thought he’d done his part and it would be excusable for him to make his escape. He tried for several minutes to catch Dex’s eye, but it became clear that the other was actively avoiding looking at him. He stood with a scowl and placed his hand on Dex’s shoulder, feeling the warmth off his skin bleed through the cotton of his shirt.

“Sorry to steal him away,” Derek said, smiling in apology at the woman Dex had been chatting. “But we’ve got to get back to my moms’.”

She smiled and gave Dex a business card that he slid into the breast pocket of his jacket, pointedly silent as Nursey thanked her for her congratulations on his award again.

“And- Goodness, I just think it’s so brave of you both, coming here with your boyfriend. You could hold hands, you know, you wouldn’t shock anyone. Or, well, anyone you would shock would deserve it.” She stabbed her tart with a fierce look in her eye that was reminiscent of Bitty when someone made fun of Chowder. “I do hope you give me a call, Will.” She added in Dex’s direction, his jaw squared in a way that Derek knew was him biting his tongue so he didn’t say anything that he shouldn’t.

“Yes, thanks, lovely to meet you.” Derek grabbed Dex by the elbow and practically dragged him out of the venue, his plaque under his arm and the envelope containing his check folded up inside of his jacket. Dex jerked his arm away and stepped to the curb, raising an arm in an attempt to hail a cab. Nursey stifled a smile, as Dex was clearly inexperienced, and stepped beside him to hail one properly.

Dex shot him a scathing look when a taxi pulled up to the sidewalk, opening the door and closing it fast so that Nursey had to go around the other side. And still, he didn’t say anything.

Dex had met his moms several times, beginning with family weekend as freshmen. Derek sighed to remember that now, how completely and obviously thrown Dex had been by the sight of two real live lesbians and Shitty’d had to elbow him hard in the ribs to stop him from asking at least two inappropriate questions.

How far he’d come, Nursey thought approvingly as he watched Dex accept a hug from Mom and a cheek kiss from Mama, answering their questions about the dinner politely, accepting Mama’s offer of lemon bars and following her into the kitchen.

Nursey sighed and dropped his bag by the door, listening to the happy chatter from the kitchen and trying not to wish that things could always be this way: three of the people he loved most just a room away. He trailed in after the rest of them, trying to still his heart at the sight of Dex with a dusting of powdered sugar across his upper lip, a lemon bar half eaten in his hand even though he’d been in the kitchen for no more than twenty seconds. Derek smiled, a little helplessly, and his Mom noticed. He noticed her noticing and tried to school the expression off of his face, but it was too late.

“You boys must be tired.” She said.

On the ice, there’s always a split second before impact when you know you’re about to take a nasty check. There’s no time to do anything to stop it, just a moment of panic before being slammed into the boards. Derek’s eyes went wide, knowing what was about to come but unable to do anything to stop it.

“Why don’t you head up to bed? We fixed up Derek’s room for both of you, honey. There’s no need for you to sneak around, not here.”

Dex was still smiling. Her meaning hadn’t sunk in yet. Nursey braced for impact.

“Sneak…?” He began to ask, then his eyes found Nursey’s and his mouth dropped into a scowl. He delicately set down the remainder of the lemon bar and walked out of the room.

Nursey’s moms swiveled to stare at him.

“Oh, no.” Mama said, catching on before he could school his expression into something less wounded. “Oh, Derek, hon.”

“You’re not- Oh. Oh, baby, I’m so sorry, I just- I assumed.” Mom covered her mouth with her hand and looked appropriately horrified. Nursey shoved a hand through his hair and sighed.

“No, no, it’s fine. Don’t be sorry, it’s okay. He’s just… He’s just pissy because everyone at the dinner thought we were, like, a thing too. But, um. We’re not. So.” He became painfully aware of his moms’ gazes on him as he traced his finger through a small puddle near the sink. “I’ll probably take the futon tonight. Don’t worry about setting it up, I know where everything is.”

He pressed a kiss to each of their temples (holy hell, when had he gotten taller than Mom?) and dragged his bag and his sorry ass up the stairs to his old bedroom, the one that Dex had seen when he visited the summer before.

Nursey hesitated outside the door then knocked. He felt ridiculous asking permission into his own bedroom.

“Yeah.” Dex said from behind the door and Nursey cautiously pushed his way inside. Dex was examining the shelf above his bed, the one crammed with knick-knacks that Nursey was too damn sentimental to get rid of. There was a teddy bear his old boyfriend had won him at Coney Island, a baby food jar full of sand from a vacation he’d taken when he was in elementary school, his Samwell acceptance letter, a single orange leaf that he’d held up to Dex’s hair and proclaimed a perfect match their sophomore year.

Dex was quiet, which was unusual of itself.

“Sorry about my moms. They’re just a little nosey. And they assume, like, everyone is queer.” Nursey blurted.

Dex was still quiet.

“And I should have warned you that, you know. People would think you were my… boyfriend.”

Dex laughed, but it was hollow. “Yeah, probably.” He agreed.

Nursey swallowed. “I’m gonna go get set up on the futon.” He said. “Moms want to take us out to breakfast tomorrow, but if you like, want to head right back to school that’s okay too.”

As if he hadn’t heard him, Dex spoke. “I’m so tired of it, Nurse. I’m tired of people thinking we’re together.”
Derek felt a sick swoop of nausea and pressed his lips into a line.

“Okay.” He said dumbly.

“I don’t- It makes me-“ Dex wasn’t looking at him, staring anywhere but where Nursey stood.

“Okay,” he repeated, harsher.

Dex glanced at him.

“I get it. Fine. You don’t want people to think we’re dating. Okay.” He said.

“Nursey-“

“It’s fine. I get it. I know we’re not dating, you know we’re not dating, I don’t
really see how anyone else’s opinion matters here, but fine! I’ll be sure to walk around holding a sign that says ‘single as fuck and not dating Will Poindexter’!” He realized he was being a drama queen a moment after he flung himself down onto his mattress.

Dex was watching him, looking torn halfway through laughing at him or shouting at him. Nursey groaned into his pillow.

“Just- What the hell, Dex? Why is it such a big goddamn deal?” He asked after several beats of silence. He wanted his voice to be steady, aloof, chill, but instead his question came out soft and uncertain.

He heard rather than saw Dex take a deep breath, then felt the mattress dip as Dex perched on the edge.

“It’s a big deal because we’re not.”

Nursey made an annoyed sound and made to roll over, frustrated with Dex and himself and this whole goddamned conversation.

“I mean,” Dex said, his voice barely audible over the rustle of blankets and creak of bedsprings, “Because I wish we were. And we’re not.”

Nursey froze, his mouth dry and his heart pounding. Slowly, he rolled onto his back to look up at Dex, who was staring very hard at the wall.

There was silence for a bit, as Nursey tried to think of something to say and Dex tried not to bolt.

“I see.” Nursey said finally, then wanted to kick himself. He was a goddamn creative writing major, how the hell had every word in the English language deserted him at this very moment?

Dex let out a slightly manic laugh.

“So. Uh. Okay. Well.” Nursey said.

“Right.”

“Does that mean I get to stay in here tonight?”

Dex’s face flushed and he didn’t look at Nursey, but he ducked his chin in what Nursey assumed was supposed to be a nod.

“Does that… Uh, also mean that you would want to date me?”

Dex looked at him from the corner of his eye.

“Would you want to date me?” Dex asked. Nursey laughed, then realized Dex was being serious. He sat up properly, realizing how difficult it was to have a serious conversation when only one person was laying down.

“Dex- Will.” Nursey said, his eyes bright and earnest. “You can’t be real right now. My moms already thought we were together from how much I talk about you. I brought you a my plus-one.”

Dex scowled, a line appearing between his eyebrows. “Yeah, but the poem-“

“Was one-hundred percent about you. One of my all-time favorite pieces, actually. Wrote the first draft in freshman year, tweaked it a hundred times since.” He tried to sound casual about it.

Dex blinked several times. Nursey held his breath.

“Will you go out with me?” Dex blurted.

“Yeah.” Nursey said, unable to keep from grinning as he reached out to take Dex’s hand. “Yeah, that’d be pretty chill.”

“When the snows fall and the white wind blows, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives” - Ned Stark | Sansa & Arya Sci-Fi. Sansa with a Dragunov inspired gun since she’s been a lot sneakier this season and Arya with a laser staff and sports-padding inspired attire because she’s more of a melee fighter.

Rat Bastard Tavern

When: Every other Friday (Tonight!)
Time:  8 Bells (server)
Where: The Rat Bastard Tavern (Ship in Stormwind Docks, middle pier)

Tired of the same old watering hole? Have you counted the cracks on the ceiling of every local pub? The Rat Bastard Tavern offers a switch of scenery, floating serenely in the Stormwind Harbor for one night only every other week. If the change of scenery is not enough, why not come for the live music, the diverse patrons, and the fun and friendly staff? Sporting a wide drink menu of local and imported spirits and food menu to come, The Rat Bastard will leave you with some good memories and maybe a fun staggering walk home. Don’t dress up, we prefer things casual!

Rules:
1. No fighting.
2. No weapons.
3. No pets.

Any weapons will be checked at the door and looked after by our professional staff to be returned on departure. Any pets will be kindly asked to be left outside. Hope to see you there!

(Contact Masnira @enigmatic-elegance for more information!)

Bungou!!! on Ice

So. Seems like Yuri!!! on Ice is the hottest (heh) anime show right now. What better time to push a Figure Skating AU towards the fandom?

Take note that I only became a casual figure skating fan a few months after Vancouver Olympics, and similar to my HP AU, these are all muddled ideas mixed together so nothing too concrete has been established. No pairings too, because I want to keep this as close to canon as possible.

Let’s start!

PLOT:

Lol what plot.

Atsushi is an orphan. Got kicked out a week after his 18th birthday, yada yada yada. Sees a man drowning, tries to save his life. Turns out he ruined the man’s “suicide” attempt. Another man enters the scene, introduces himself as Kunikida Doppo and his associate as Dazai Osamu. Atsushi has heard of the latter somewhere, but cannot seem to remember. The two treat out Atsushi to lunch for the trouble Dazai caused.

In the restaurant Atsushi gets to know the two men more. They’re both part of a sports agency, newly established by a man who used to be a bodyguard for the elite. Atsushi asked if they have any job openings and the two tell him there is none, but they can help hire him as a staff member for the recently opened ice rink in Yokohama. Penniless and with nowhere to go, Atsushi immediately agrees.

It’s been a few weeks since Atsushi’s employment. The money he earns barely allows him to enjoy any luxuries, but at least he wasn’t out on the streets starving. One day, Dazai drops by the rink. There he sees Atsushi do a quad toe. Awed and intrigued, he asks Atsushi whether he’d been practicing, and Atsushi bashfully confirms that every night he would imitate the moves he sees on TV. There and then, Dazai decides.

He’s gonna turn Atsushi into a figure skater! (As if no one saw this coming.)

CHARACTERS:

Obviously I can’t fit them all here because like I said I haven’t exactly worked this all out but anywaaaaaay…

Nakajima Atsushi. He is a curious kind of prodigy, started skating at freaking EIGHTEEN. If you must know, most competitive figure skaters start skating lessons as early as 4-5 yrs old. All odds are against him, but Dazai is convinced he can become a great figure skater. After a few months of practice, he signs up for the current year’s Junior Grand Prix. He isn’t confident, but if an Olympic Gold Medalist is telling him he can become champion then who was he to disagree?
Strengths: JUMPS, with good speed, entry, height, distance… basically positive GOEs all around.
Weaknesses: Needs to work on everything else. Tends to Zayak. Low self-esteem.
Notable Program: Oriental Wind (FP)

Dazai Osamu. Retired figure skater, and one of the best athletes the sport has ever produced. An Olympic Champion, 3-time Japan Nationals Champion, 3-time World Champion, 3-time Four Continents Champion and 2-time World Junior Champion. He won three straight Grand Prix Finals. Has broken world records 12 times and has never placed off the podium. However, at the peak of his career, he mysteriously called it quits. No media announcement. No interviews. Nothing was heard from him for four years, until he decided to apply as a regular sports agent for a virtually unknown sports agency in Yokohama.
Strengths: The gold standard. “Born with talent that can’t be learned through training,” to quote his former coach Mori.
Weaknesses: Hard to motivate. Slacks off a lot. Would be late in competitions. Flirts with female skaters. None.
Notable Program: Phantom of the Opera (FP)

Kunikida Doppo. Retired short track speed skater, now Atsushi’s full-time coach. He is a perfectionist, and that is why most of the students he takes give up after a month of on-ice practice sessions. While strict and scary, Kunikida genuinely cares and would do what it takes to help improve all those he’s coaching. Atsushi gives him a headache, but the kid is a hard worker whose growth is astonishing. Used to be a math teacher for a time.
Strengths: Strong mental fortitude. A patient teacher.
Weaknesses: Is fussy with a lot of things, can’t concentrate if things don’t go his way. Yells. A lot.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Some clarification: Yu//ri P. EX routine was in fact inspired from JW's Poker Face routine (except there wasn't any shirt riding up). One of the staff got into the sport's community when they saw him skate it. He's aware of it and is a fan of the show himself.

Cubs shortstop Addison Russell talks Joe Maddon, Chicago and his career path

Hard as it might be to believe, Addison Russell is only 23 years old.

The All-Star shortstop has made quite an impact in his time with the Cubs, though. He was good enough at 21 years old to dislodge Starlin Castro from the shortstop position at Wrigley Field, and at 22 years old, he hit 21 homers and had 95 RBIs, made the All-Star team and helped the Cubs claim the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908. And, you might remember, Russell had a home run and six RBIs in that win-or-go-home Game 6 in Cleveland during that World Series.

MORE:Sporting News staff predictions for the 2017 MLB season

So, yeah, he’s accomplished a lot in his two years with the Cubs. Anyway, a couple days before his team opensits 2017 season on Sunday with a game against the rival Cardinals in St. Louis, Russell chatted with Sporting News about a variety of topics in a phone interview, as part of his partnership with MET-Rx. A portion of that interview follows.

SPORTING NEWS: Considering everything you’ve experienced with the Cubs the past couple years, does your time with the A’s organization feel like forever ago?

RUSSELL: Yeah. You know, as a high school guy, I got drafted in 2012, and really that’s only about four or five years ago, but it feels like a long time away. A few seasons ago, trying to make the push for the World Series and getting knocked out, then last year winning the World Series, going all the way and winning it, really kind of sped things up for me, I’d say. Looking back on it now, it seems like when I played for Oakland was such a long time ago.

SN: I’m curious about this. Two years ago, your season ended when the Mets beat you guys in the NLCS. Last year, you won the World Series. Is there a difference in offseason motivation between those two very different types of finishes?

RUSSELL: When we got kicked out by the Mets two years ago, everyone wasn’t satisfied with the results, obviously. So going into the next season, we definitely wanted to be the top dogs. And winning the whole thing, we definitely are the top dogs, so it’s all about trying to repeat and do that again.

SN: Now that you’re in your third full year in the bigs, is there one area of your game you’re hoping to improve?

RUSSELL: Definitely up there at the plate, I would like to cut down the strikeouts. But just more consistent over the course of the year, as far as making the routine plays and not trying to do too much at the plate.

Russell, in his days as an Oakland A’s prospect. (Getty Images)

MORE:Opening day 2017: Schedule for all 30 MLB teams

SN: Everyone loves to talk about your manager, so I will, too. Was there a moment you knew Joe Maddon was different from other managers?

RUSSELL: I haven’t had a lot of experience with a lot of managers, but I’m pretty lucky and fortunate enough to have someone like Joe, with such a proven track record with players in the league, a lot of retired players, and a lot of coaches, as well. He’s won a ring before. He’s just a player’s coach. He definitely has a lot of feel for the ballgame, he knows what athletes go through on a day-to-day basis in order to get their body ready for the game. As far as a skip and a manager, I think he’s probably the best out there.

SN: You guys have a unique situation, with so many guys who can play different positions, guys like Javy Baez and Ben Zobrist, and even Kris Bryant plays outfield, too. Does it take a special group to accept that approach, playing different positions instead of everyone being locked into a spot?

RUSSELL: It’s a good thing we have guys like that. Each game is like a chess match, in a sense. We have to put the right guys in the right spot at the right time. Joe and Davey (Martinez), they do a good job of making sure that happens.

SN: OK, a random one. Where’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago?

RUSSELL: My favorite place to eat in Chicago? I’d say RPM Steak. Yeah.

SN: Nice. You a filet guy? T-bone?

RUSSELL: I’m a big filet guy. I get an eight-ounce filet, and maybe a Knob Creek on the side.

SN: Nice. Tell me about your partnership with MET-Rx.

RUSSELL: Coming off winning the World Series, I really wanted to take my training to the next level, and MET-Rx and I are continuing our partnership to make sure that happens. You’ve got the whole league gunning for us, so you’ve got to be on point and continuing the partnership with MET-Rx, I’ve been able to do that. I feel confident about my training.

SN: Was it fun for you guys, coming into spring training with that target on your backs?

RUSSELL: Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. I just go about my business the same way I’d been going about my business, just trying to get better on and off the baseball field. Going back into that clubhouse and seeing all those guys again and hearing about their offseason and seeing them in the clubhouse gets the fire going again, you know? Gets me ready for this next season.

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See 16-year-old female surfer Frankie Harrer blue-crush some sick waves in Teahupoʻo, Tahiti.