Disabato: Sarah Kustok inducted into Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pdisabato September 18, 2012 6:42PM
Sarah Kustok | File photo
Hall of Fame
Class of 2012: Johnny Barrett, Ira Berkow, Jay Blunk, John Calipari, Mark Donahue, Jennie Finch, Bob Hallberg, Napoleon Harris, Elzie Higginbottom, Paul Hornung, Bo Jackson, Sarah Kustok, Bill Madlock, Jack O’Callahan, Jimmy Piersall, Ron Rubenstein, Eric Soderholm, Robert Thomas, Bill Weick, Otis Wilson.
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Hawthorne Race Course, Cicero
Howard Fagan (708) 780-3679
Updated: October 20, 2012 6:14AM
Sarah Kustok thought she was being Punk’d.
Except it wasn’t Ashton Kutcher on the phone informing her that she was elected into the prestigious Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
It was Jean Lenti Ponsetto, DePaul’s athletic director, whom Kustok has known and admired since her days as a student-athlete at DePaul.
“Are you kidding?” Kustok responded. “I think they made a mistake here. How did I get on this list? It was so shocking.”
Even Sarah’s brother Zak, a star quarterback at Northwestern and Sandburg, couldn’t resist jabbing his younger sister.
“He said, ‘Sarah, maybe they’re combining both of our accomplishments and you’re being asked to be our representative,’ ” Sarah said, laughing. “He’s like, ‘Really? You’re accomplishments are bigger than mine?’ But in all seriousness, Zak has always been my biggest fan and he’s really happy for me.”
It’s not that Kustok isn’t deserving of the honor. She was a two-sport star at Sandburg, earning All-Area honors in basketball and volleyball, and helped DePaul’s women’s basketball program to a pair of NCAA and NIT appearances.
She also was a familiar face on Comcast SportsNet broadcasts the past five years, demonstrating a calm but enthusiastic delivery as an in-studio host and reporter at White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls games.
No doubt Sarah, 30, has accomplished a great deal in a short time. She’s someone young girls should try to emulate.
It’s just that the list of 20 2012 inductees is so star-studded and, well, so much older than Sarah.
There’s former NFL and major league baseball player Bo Jackson, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, former Green Bay Packers and University of Notre Dame standout Paul Hornung, and Olympic gold medalist and former Chicago Bandits professional softball pitcher Jennie Finch.
That’s high company, for sure.
There are other local icons. Bob Hallberg, the current athletic director and women’s basketball coach at St. Xavier University, will be enshrined Wednesday at Hawthorne Race Course along with Kustok, as will NFL veterans Napoleon Harris (Thornton/Northwestern) and Mark Donahue (Brother Rice/Michigan), wrestling legend Bill Weick and Bloom track great Elzie Higginbottom.
“I’m so humbled by this,” said Kustok, a 2000 Sandburg grad. “I, of course, am very proud of what I achieved, but these are monster names that I don’t fit the category of standing with. But this is 100 percent motivation for me to do big things in my career. I need to live up to this award.”
She’s well on her way to doing just that.
Sarah left Comcast SportsNet in August for a similar position at the YES Network in New York, reporting on the relocated Brooklyn Nets franchise in the NBA and hosting studio shows for the New York Yankees’ flagship network. Yes, the small town girl has left Orland Park for Central Park.
While she conceded it was difficult to leave the comforts of her hometown, she just couldn’t resist the challenges New York provides for a career girl like herself.
“It was very difficult to leave Chicago,” said Sarah, who’s living in Manhattan. “I’ve been here my entire life. But career-wise, wanting to grow and being challenged, it was a job I couldn’t turn down. I loved my job at Comcast. It’s an incredible network with incredible people. This is something outside my comfort zone and a challenge I wanted to take on.”
One of Kustok’s most memorable moments at Comcast occurred during her final postgame interview for the White Sox in August.
While interviewing outfielder Alex Rios, catcher A.J. Pierzynski smashed a shaving cream pie in Sarah’s face. For all of Chicago to see.
By the look on Pierzynski’s face, he took great delight in executing his sneak attack.
On camera, Sarah took the prank in stride, still showcasing the dazzling smile and sparkling blue eyes — albeit through a face-full of shaving cream — that has attracted a legion of mostly male followers.
I couldn’t help but wonder if there was any friction between Sarah and Pierzynski, commonly voted as the most hated player in baseball.
“I adore A.J.; I love A.J.” Kustok said. “But I said to him, ‘Could you have stuck the shaving cream any further down my eyes?’ I never saw it coming. I think I swallowed half a can of shaving cream. But it was all in good fun.”
Fun is what Sarah is having in New York, getting acclimated to the Big Apple. She’s found herself often frequenting the children’s clothing stores during her brief stay.
No, it’s not what you’re thinking.
Zak and his wife are expecting their first child — a girl — in November, and Aunt Sarah just can’t stop buying things for her niece.
“Oh, my god, I have not been able to walk past a store without buying something for her,” Kustok said. “All these cute things. It’s a short trip from New York to Chicago. I plan on seeing her a lot.”