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Emma: Hopes Are Sky-High For White Sox

By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This is a new year. A new beginning. You made a promise.

Those words flashed before the eyes of several thousand in a packed Hilton ballroom, the lyrics of A Great Big World's cheesy song blaring through a team-created pump-up video. There were images of flame-throwing ace Chris Sale and second-year slugger Jose Abreu, but also clips from the 2005 World Series run. Remember that? It's been 10 years.

Fans at the annual SoxFest — an event in which grown men don Joe Crede shirseys and scream like maniacs at other grown men — exploded with joy as this message of a new beginning was passed along in the White Sox video.

One man arose from his seat with a cry of joy, declaring the White Sox 2015 World Series champions. Another just unleashed uncontrollable giggles during the duration, seemingly unable to possess any emotion but child-like joy.

For the White Sox, it's a new year, a new beginning, and they made a promise — to fight like hell for another championship.

"We're much better than we were before," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We like where we're headed. We've added some quality guys, and the excitement is there. When you go to play, you expect to win games."

This White Sox franchise that's in constant win-now mode — even remarkably while in a hybrid rebuild — was disappointed by following a 99-loss 2013 with an 89-loss 2014.

A movement for improvement occurred this offseason, with general manager Rick Hahn adding names like Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera to a cast that includes Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia and more.

"I'm very happy for all the acquisitions during the offseason," Abreu said through a translator. "I feel good, I feel we have a very good team."

Without a doubt, the most excited White Sox player was Adam Eaton, who anxiously awaited each move while refreshing Twitter constantly. When the center fielder met with Hahn, he offered a "thank you" to his boss.

"You see the excitement in Chicago, you see the excitement on Twitter, and it excites you," Eaton said. "It makes you train harder knowing that the team he's put together and established is going to compete for championships."

Oh, there's excitement. White Sox fans celebrated on Friday like the team had won the division, greeting players and coaches with constant raucous cheers.

Heck, this team very well could win the division. Samardzija wouldn't go as far as former Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo and predict so, but he's optimistic.

"This team is built to win, and more importantly, I think this team is built to compete every day," Samardzija said. "As a player, that's the most exciting aspect of it — knowing every day when we exchanges lineups, we're coming to win."

Such sentiments were a constant on the first day of SoxFest. Whether it was Hahn, Ventura, Samardzija or Eaton, the White Sox won't shy away from their high hopes.

Fans could feel the palpable buzz. Management can only hope it leads to greater bang at the box office. Because with this offseason effort comes a responsibility to meet or exceed demands.

"I'll take a full house and expectations every day of the week," Hahn said.

Added Ventura: "There's no guarantee with anything. We think we're better. We're going to have to prove it."

That time comes later. There's still snow on the ground in Chicago, and spring training is weeks away.

SoxFest brings reason for optimism. It's what these fan fests are for — that and a reason to don shirseys.

The White Sox are 0-0 and hopes are high. It's a new beginning.

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