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updated: 2/23/2014 6:27 AM

Long goodbye begins in earnest for Konerko

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  • White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko fields a ground ball during baseball spring training in Glendale, Ariz., Saturday.

      White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko fields a ground ball during baseball spring training in Glendale, Ariz., Saturday.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko catches a baseball during baseball spring training in Glendale, Ariz., Saturday.

      Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko catches a baseball during baseball spring training in Glendale, Ariz., Saturday.
    Associated Press

 
 

Paul Konerko is a different kind of guy.

To some fans and media, Konerko may even appear a bit odd.

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That's what happens when you're an analytical baseball player who measures his at-bats a pitch at a time -- and his answers by whether he took the time to respond fully and honestly.

He is sometimes so long-winded that you can see reporters looking around the locker room for their next target, no longer interested in what Konerko is saying, unable to comprehend depth and selflessness in an industry filled with the eternally shallow and selfish.

So it should come as no surprise that Konerko doesn't want the rocking-chair tour, filled with portraits he'll never hang, and gifts he'll never carry home.

Konerko merely wants to tie up a few loose ends, say so long to a few places and a few people he would not have had the chance to see again had he not signed on for one more season.

"I don't want to make this into a circus with all that stuff off the field. Having said that, I want to fit in some more things," Konerko said as met reporters in Arizona to begin spring training. "But I want to go out like I came in and all the way through, where (baseball is) totally your job.

"That will satisfy me the most in the end."

On the field, Konerko seems completely satisfied with his role, which at the moment will be occasionally spelling Jose Abreu at first and Adam Dunn as the DH.

"We're going to mix and match and hopefully Jose plays most of the time," said manager Robin Ventura. "They've known that now for a little while.''

There are variables, however, that have gone unsaid.

What if Abreu struggles? What is Dunn is traded? What if left field changes through trade or performance, and Dunn winds up out there? What if Konerko gets hot? Any or all of these things could occur, leading to more playing time for Konerko than anyone currently thinks.

But the plan as it stands is for Konerko to be a part-timer who lends his voice to the clubhouse and his leadership to young players.

"A lot of people can talk about this or that," Dunn said, "but when you have a guy who actually won a World Series and has had such a good career, it's easier to stand in front of (young players) and show how it's done."

The 38-year-old Konerko seems completely content with a quieter role and a louder voice.

"Four years from now," Konerko said, "if this team is a good team year in and year out, to know I had a hand in helping some of these guys along, that will make me feel good when I'm playing golf somewhere."

And along the way, Konerko will see more cities with his family, giving him a chance to explain his career to his kids.

"They know it gets them out of school if they go places," Konerko said. "They are already angling and plotting for places to go. They're smart."

So is Konerko, who will miss a lot about baseball, but not seven weeks of camp.

"There will probably be some moments where you're a little bit sad about something you're not going to get to do again," Konerko said, "but spring training is not going to be one of them."

Thus, it begins. It is a year for Konerko to share with his friends and family, much more than it is a year for opposing teams to shower him with plaques and plaudits.

He knows the best gift was already given to him by Jerry Reinsdorf, the chance to be certain he is finished, the chance to look around the American League one final time while wearing a White Sox uniform.

He has earned at least that much.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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