At Soxfest, fired up fans throw full support behind rebuild
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SoxFest was sold out in 2015, but it was more of a nostalgic weekend at the Hilton Chicago.
Three years ago, the White Sox brought back many of the players from the 2005 World Series team and fans were excited to be part of the 10-year reunion.
SoxFest is sold out this year for the first time since '15, for a much different reason.
There is some serious fan excitement behind the White Sox's rebuild, and it created quite a buzz in the autograph lines and seminars on the opening night of the Sox's annual winter fan gathering.
"The fan support has been stunning," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It has been overwhelming in terms of the amount of enthusiasm and energy that they've shown. Obviously, this weekend is sold out, virtually every fan that interacts with me directly or calls or emails or writes a letter has expressed their support, and actually a few last night as I was out at a sponsor event expressed, 'Why was there any doubt that we would support that? You articulate a clear plan that makes sense and follow through on it, you'll have our support through thick and thin." Which, as an organization, we very much appreciate."
White Sox fans continued the support Friday night.
"As a season-ticket holder, I think it's the best thing they've done," Plainfield's John Behringer said of the overdue rebuild. "Having players like ((Chris) Sale, (Adam) Eaton leave, it was tough, but Rick Hahn has done an amazing job. Trading (Jose) Quintana to the Cubs was unbelievable. Look at the talent he got back, (Eloy) Jimenez and (Dylan) Cease.
"Jimenez looks like Frank Thomas all over again, maybe better. I think it was a great trade for both teams."
"All of the young players that are here, it's pretty exciting," said Ann Gilmore, from downstate Bloomington. "Anything is better than what it was."
Eric Schwantz traveled all the way from Columbia, S.C., for SoxFest.
"If you look at other teams that have done the rebuild, even the Cubs, it seems to be the key to success," said Schwantz, formerly of McHenry. "The White Sox might not contend until 2020, '21, but I'll be patient."
With players like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez already on the 25-man roster and top prospects like Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Zack Collins moving up in the minor leagues, the patience could pay off big.
"They are fired up about, I say in air quotes, 'rebuild,' but honestly the team, we've come together," Giolito said. "We are very, very close. And I think that we have a good chance of surprising people this year. Talking to the fans, they are just fired up about it. They are excited to see all the young guys come up.
"We had that first wave of prospects at the end of last year and now transitioning into this year. Some of the guys will be up pretty soon as well. And then (manager) Ricky (Renteria) at the helm, it's a really, really good environment."
Jimenez has a very bold outlook for the White Sox's future.
"I was talking one day in Double-A (Birmingham), that when we get together and figure it out in the big leagues, I know it's going to be awesome that we're going to win a lot of World Series," Jimenez said.