White Sox’ Konerko a true professional all the way
The White Sox' Paul Konerko hits a 3-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday against the Indians. He also had a single to boost his batting average to .399.
Paul Konerko has been obscured by his professionalism during much of his 14 seasons with the White Sox.
There were no controversies like Sox slugger Frank Thomas used to be involved in. There were no public transgressions in his private life. There were no ugly salary disputes, steroid suspicions or anything else.
Konerko just went about his business as the White Sox' first baseman, power hitter and World Series champion in 2005.
Now, though, Konerko is finding it difficult to remain unnoticed, relatively speaking anyway.
A group of reporters surrounded Konerko's locker at around 10 a.m. Sunday. They wanted to hear and see what someone batting .396 is like.
Three hours later Konerko received a huge ovation from the crowd on the way toward his first at-bat of the day and toward the Sox' eventual 12-6 victory over Cleveland.
Following the game, an even larger media gaggle visited Konerko's locker, and why not?
All the man had done was hit a pivotal 3-run home run, add a single and finish the afternoon batting .399.
Sitting on Konerko's lap during the postgame session was son Owen, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Spider-Man's image.
Meanwhile, all around the South Side, other young boys and probably some old men are wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Paul Konerko's image.
I haven't seen "Marvel's the Avengers" yet, so tell me, who played Konerko? Liam Neeson, or did he play himself?
Wild thoughts like that occur when a Sox player flirts with a .400 batting average this late in May for the first time since at least 1920.
Konerko's super power is an uncanny ability to work hard and stay focused. Not even being hit in the face by a pitch last weekend at Wrigley Field could throw Konerko off his game.
The next day the area around his left eye resembled — to steal a line from novelist Raymond Chandler — a collapsed lung.
Konerko missed two games before returning to the batter's box like nothing happened. Six days later, he has a 13-game hitting streak.
"He's never changed," Sox manager Robin Ventura said, "whether he's watching video, taking groundballs … he's a professional."
Konerko, 36, will remain the same even though he's batting nearly .400 and as of Sunday has 400 homers in a Sox uniform.
Look, he isn't going to finish the season at .400. He'll suffer a slump this season, maybe a couple.
But he'll still be Paul Konerko, practicing what he learned as a kid in the Dodgers' organization about being a major-leaguer and later from Jim Thome with the Sox.
"The way to go about stuff," is how Konerko puts it. "Guys like Jim don't tell you anything. You watch and learn and admire the way he goes about it."
Now younger Sox players watch and learn and admire Konerko's approach. They also see how his way is rewarded more than ever before in his career with impressive numbers that stuff a stats sheet.
Oh, yeah, then there are the ovations when Konerko comes to the plate, along with chants of "Paulie! Paulie! Paulie!"
Konerko isn't spectacular. He doesn't hit many tape-measure home runs or 4 in a game or 50 in a season.
Instead, Konerko sort of sneaked up on attention one hit, one homer, one season at a time … and then burst upon it with one irrepressible .399 batting average on Memorial Day.
That's how professional baseball players do it.
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