Namesake of late Bears chairman working in tr
Namesake of late Bears chairman working in trenches
Ed McCaskey working way up chain with Southshore RailCats
David Haugh In the Wake of the News 1:18 p.m. CDT, June 25, 2011
An overcast sky threatened rain hours before a Gary Southshore RailCats day game, and Ed McCaskey took an uneasy glance upward because he knew from experience what that could mean.
The tarp won't roll itself onto the field.
That's part of my job too,'' said McCaskey, 24, the media relations manager for the independent baseball team in northwest Indiana. "I've had to do it enough that I can tell you all about the dangers of tarp-pulling.''
Mother Nature spared McCaskey on this afternoon, so he could focus on his regular duties, which include writing the game story for the RailCats' website and overseeing the press box. And it was a good thing. McCaskey, the son of Bears board member Patrick and Gretchen McCaskey, already was fatigued from sleeping at the ballpark after the previous night's game instead of making the 55-mile trek to his apartment in Wheaton.
He has bunked there overnight often enough to vouch for the soft couch in the team's family waiting room and the showers in the clubhouse.
"It saves me some gas money that way too,'' McCaskey cracked.
Somewhere, someone's making a cheap joke about another McCaskey watching what he spends. But beneath the tired stereotype is a young man from one of the most privileged families in Chicago who feels entitled to nothing as he forges his career in the sports industry.
Before making his office the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, farther from Lake Forest than the map suggests, McCaskey paid dues at his first job as PR director for the United League's Coastal Bend Thunder in Robstown, Texas. When RailCats owner Pat Salvi, a prominent Chicago attorney, offered McCaskey a chance to interview for a front-office position, it represented an opportunity to move closer to home.
"Ed was born nine months after Super Bowl XX (in 1986),'' his father said. "He reported two days before his mother was due. We say he always has had good initiative.''
Unless it involves self-promotion. The guy whose role requires pushing human-interest stories was so reluctant to share his that, in his first five emails to me proposing RailCats features, he didn't mention his family connection. He never once offered that he was named for his ebullient late grandfather, Ed, whose wife, Virginia, is the matriarch of the family who owns the Bears.
I finally called to ask if he was a member of that McCaskey family.
"Uh … yes,'' he finally acknowledged.
Once McCaskey agreed to an interview, he made clear he would offer the Bear minimum when it came to any football-related questions. But he could talk all day about his Grandpa Ed teaching him to fish or his family celebrating the 2006 NFC championship as the snow fell on Soldier Field.
"I'm definitely proud of my family, but I don't necessarily like to advertise it,'' McCaskey said.
At work, for example, RailCats general manager Andy Viano recalled it took months after McCaskey started in January 2010 for co-workers to realize who the new red-headed kid was. Once, Viano had to tell an employee why McCaskey didn't laugh at his Bears jokes.
"I want people to know me for me, not just a name,'' McCaskey said. "It was a struggle in high school (Loyola Academy) to make real genuine friends because it was, 'You're the kid who owns the Bears.' I don't mind taking a backseat.''
McCaskey usually finds himself at the forefront of activity during many 18-hour days that educate him on every aspect of running a sports organization. On this one, McCaskey ran the production room responsible for pumping music such as the Jackson 5's "ABC" through the loudspeakers and chatted with the two local beat writers. To McCaskey, work and fun are synonyms.
"Ed could be the one guy here who could say, 'I don't need to do the dirty work because I have the ultimate fall-back position,' '' Viano said. "But he's as hard a worker as we have on our staff.''
A former left-handed reliever who still holds Wheaton College's single-season saves record, McCaskey enjoys the environment even if football is the family sport. His parents regularly attend Sunday home games, and Virginia McCaskey recently got a kick out of between-inning stunts such as the human build-a-burger contest.
"Grandma thought they were wacky,'' McCaskey said.
The same word occasionally has been used to describe the songs his father sings publicly, such as the ode to Brian Urlacher that wound up on "SportsCenter,'' and provide the soundtrack for nights of family humor.
"My brothers (Thomas and James) and I give him a hard time because at first we were like, 'Dad, come on, you're killing us here,' '' McCaskey said. "But over time it's who he is. It's funny. He has been doing songs for my football teams since 6th and 7th grade.''
Almost as long ago, Ed started dreaming about one day joining the family business and working at Halas Hall. Of his 40-plus McCaskey cousins, several pursuing sports careers share similar dreams. All of them have been delivered the same message.
"They've made it clear you have to work for it, and I'm ready to do that,'' McCaskey said. "I know I have to work my butt off because nothing's guaranteed. It's the NFL. It's the top sport in the country. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, I know God has another plan for me. But I'm willing to do anything.''
Just name it.