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The Captain Arrives

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  • The Captain Arrives

    Sox welcome Konerko to camp
    Team's new captain eager to get back to work
    By Scott Merkin /

    Paul Konerko had a .283 average, 40 homers and 100 RBIs in 2005. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

    TUCSON, Ariz. -- For approximately 20 minutes Wednesday morning, television cameramen and reporters from Chicago waited to move at a moment's notice if word came down that Paul Konerko had arrived in camp.

    It was the sort of anticipation usually reserved for a dignitary or, to put it into more recent White Sox terminology, it was the kind of stakeout held for Frank Thomas' arrival to Kino Sports Complex in years past. With Thomas having moved on to Oakland, though, Konerko has become the face of the South Side franchise, clearly the most identifiable player on the roster.

    Actually, Konerko has held that honor since Ozzie Guillen took over the managerial reigns two years ago, when the first baseman truly emerged as the team leader. It's little wonder then that camera crews were poised Wednesday to shoot Konerko walking from his car into the clubhouse, before he even moved to the playing fields.

    But Chicago had to wait for pictures and reports of Konerko's arrival until Thursday, when he took his physical and then participated in the first full-team workout. He also addressed the media for close to 15 minutes, speaking on topics ranging from working with Jim Thome to the breakdown of the process he followed in signing his five-year, $60 million as a free agent during this past offseason.

    Any doubt about the clear-cut leader of the World Series champions was erased at Guillen's offseason press conference to announce his American League Manager of the Year Award, when Guillen said Konerko would be named captain if he returned. Konerko initially had questions about the idea, mainly about whether a captain was needed for this cohesive unit or in baseball in general. But Konerko announced at SoxFest that he would be wearing the "C" in 2006.

    On Thursday, Konerko repeated his captain's decision and explained the reasoning in his usual humble tones. Basically, Konerko was honoring his manager's request with great respect and was equally honored by Guillen's selection.

    "That's what he wants me to do, and Ozzie is my manager, and he's been nothing but great for me," Konerko said. "He's helped me a lot the last two years. My last two years were the best ones I've ever had. Hopefully, there are going to be more. They have been good, solid years, and a lot of it is because of him.

    "Just like any other job, if your boss asks you to do something, if he wants you to do it, you do it. I still believe it's not a huge thing and it's not the answer to winning. We won last year without a guy wearing it.

    "But it's what he wants to do," Konerko continued. "He wants to start a tradition of a guy wearing it. There will be somebody after me."

    Konerko believes that his captain's role and his distinction as the face of the organization -- along with Guillen, of course -- come in part from sheer longevity. This is year No. 8 with the White Sox for Konerko, who turns 30 on March 5, a stretch in which the right-handed slugger has produced only one season with fewer than 21 home runs and 81 RBIs and an average below .277.

    During the 2004 and 2005 campaigns, Konerko joined Thomas as the only White Sox players to hit 40 home runs in back-to-back seasons. Konerko also reached the 100-RBI plateau in both years. It was a priority for Konerko to stay with the White Sox, especially after the euphoria surrounding the World Series title, but it wasn't a necessity.

    Throughout the 2005 campaign, Konerko explained how he wanted to do everything he could to stay with the White Sox. But once free agency arrived after the season, he was going to make sure he got the deal he deserved, even if it meant walking away from the White Sox.

    That deal just happened to be with the team he wanted to play for in a city where he wanted to stay. The White Sox returned their cleanup hitter and their most important clubhouse presence with one official signature.

    Moments before Konerko's question-and-answer session Thursday, Guillen spoke with high praise of his first baseman. Guillen also mentioned the greatest gift he received in the offseason, rivaling the World Series victory.

    "I keep saying that the best gift I ever had, besides the World Series, was to have Paulie and [Jon] Garland back," said Guillen, who expressed the same sentiment at SoxFest. "That's my first step in being a manager where I could say, 'Well, those guys want to play for me.'

    "I'm going to see Paulie's kids growing up with me. That was the best news I had in the offseason."

    Konerko took his swings Thursday as part of a group that included Jim Thome, whom Konerko knows will not only be a significant addition to the lineup but also will serve as a veteran source of information for hard-working hitters like himself. Konerko also received his fair share of barbs from teammates, referring to them as "relentless" with a smile.

    It's something Konerko easily can handle. In fact, Konerko pointed to the ribbing as one of the reasons the atmosphere on the White Sox is so great. Everything is on the carpet.

    Cameras rolled on Konerko's swings, his plays in the field and his post-workout comments. Nicknamed "King," the same nickname held by Elvis Presley, both the media and his teammates were eager to have the face of their franchise enter the building.

    "Just the way that man carries himself, he is the leader of this ballclub," said White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik of Konerko. "He's not an outspoken guy. He leads by example. [He's] just a class guy all the way around. He's the kind of guy you want on this ballclub."

    "I take pride in the fact that I've been with the team for seven years now and hopefully for another at least five," Konerko said. "I take pride in that more than the numbers. But being the face of the team, that doesn't get you hits, that doesn't get you wins, and that's really all I care about. Winning and being productive, that's it."

    Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

  • #2

    Hey, you know that we go on too. you don't need to post the whole article of every other article on just a suggestion


    • #3
      Don't worry ChiSox73. I appreciate it when you post the articles.

      Anyways, it's just great to see Paul back with the team, rarin' to go and eager to get to work and lead the team.

      The thing I love about Paul is how he knows he's the best player on the team and the leader of the players, but he's just so humble. He just accepts his job, his position on the team, and will just do whatever it takes to win. It's defenitely a good feeling knowing we have him for the next 5 years.
      Once a Sox, always a Sox
      Here's to The Big Hurt, the best White Sox there ever was


      • #4
        Funny Ozzie,AJ,and Paulie Story

        AJ Pierzynski cracked me up yesterday when the subject of Paulie becoming captain came up.

        He jokingly said to Ozzie that he thought he was the captain,and maybe he could wear the alternate "A" on the jersey.Ozzie then told AJ that he'll give him the "A",but it won't mean alternate,but something very unflattering that starts with the letter A.


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