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Young stars stir excitement before SoxFest

White Sox travel throughout Chicago ahead of annual fan convention
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- White Sox fans embraced the organization's current rebuild from the moment the Chris Sale trade to Boston was announced at the 2016 Winter Meetings.

For most fans, we aren't talking a hopeful "let's wait and see" approach; it's more a planning out the parade route for 2020 and beyond sort of excitement. The young players comprising the rebuild sense that buzz and seemingly can't wait to feed it into this weekend at the Hilton Chicago during sold-out SoxFest activities, which begin Friday.

CHICAGO -- White Sox fans embraced the organization's current rebuild from the moment the Chris Sale trade to Boston was announced at the 2016 Winter Meetings.

For most fans, we aren't talking a hopeful "let's wait and see" approach; it's more a planning out the parade route for 2020 and beyond sort of excitement. The young players comprising the rebuild sense that buzz and seemingly can't wait to feed it into this weekend at the Hilton Chicago during sold-out SoxFest activities, which begin Friday.

"I'm speaking for all of us honestly. It makes us really excited," said White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito, who joined Jake Burger, Dylan Cease and Alec Hansen in making sales calls to season-ticket holders Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"When you are playing baseball for a living, that's a dream," Giolito said. "But when you are doing it and hopefully we'll be able to start packing the house pretty soon and the fans genuinely care, they care about the team winning and the players doing well, that makes it even more special. It's really awesome."

Giolito talked about White Sox fans having specific questions for him on Thursday's calls. Some wanted to know about his focus while warming up for a game, while others wanted to know about in-game adjustments.

"When fans are kind of that into it, it makes it even cooler," Giolito said. "... It's going to drive me to continue to try to improve and make them happy as well."

Tweet from @whitesox: .@MichaelKopech5, @Nicky_Delmonico and @Carson_Fulmer are spending time with the families at @RMHCCNI! #SoxServe pic.twitter.com/ftub5Op1gs

Thursday's pre-SoxFest activities began at the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Chicago, where Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer and Nicky Delmonico met with young patients and their families to sign autographs and provide blankets and ticket vouchers.

Delmonico even had the chance to test his coloring skills at a table with one young girl and her father. The activity helped put baseball in perspective for these up-and-coming players.

"It's a game and we love playing the game, but this is much more important and it's much more real than anything that we do," Kopech said. "To be able to come here and at least give as much as we can back, it's heartwarming to say the least."

"Any time you get the chance to put a smile on a kid's face, I think it does more for me and us than it does for them," Delmonico said.

Manager Rick Renteria and shortstop Tim Anderson also visited the Chicago Police Strategic Decision Support Center, the "nerve center" within the district that uses high-tech tools to predict where violent crimes may happen. But the week really began Wednesday night when a group of White Sox players and their significant others took in the Blackhawks game at the United Center.

Tweet from @whitesox: Shoot. Score. Dab.Cc: @Nicky_Delmonico 📹: @NHLBlackhawks pic.twitter.com/gOKzdhg7jR

Delmonico even was part of the shoot-the-puck exhibition in between periods, actually making one of his shots. Now the celebration moves back more directly to the fans this weekend, a harbinger of what all parties involved hope are more celebrations to come.

"They are diehards. They want us to win, and so do we," Fulmer said. "We're going to go out there and win some ballgames this year."

"Honestly the team, we've come together," Giolito said. "We are very, very close, and we have a good chance of surprising people this year."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Nicky Delmonico, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech