Pitching in, White Sox players surprise fans at O'Hare
"Now we're boarding Group Three," an announcer alerted United Airlines passengers traveling to Los Angeles from O'Hare International Airport on Tuesday morning. "Go White Sox, not the Dodgers."
Travelers did double-takes as they realized their temporary ticket agent was White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodón.
Also on the roster was Sox player Leury Garcia, on hand with Rodón for a behind-the-scenes tour of United Airlines facilities and a chance to catch fans by surprise.
"Group 4 is welcome to board now," Rodón intoned. "Is this a bunch of Dodgers fans?"
Baseball fans stopped worrying about catching flights and trailed after the two athletes as they sauntered through Terminal 1, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
Colleen Finnigan of St. Charles and sons Tommy, 8, and Frankie, 15, beamed after their photo opportunity with Rodón and Garcia.
"It's unexpected, crazy and pretty awesome," Frankie Finnigan said.
United Airlines, a White Sox sponsor, held a similar event last year. "We're really excited to have an opportunity for them to come out to O'Hare and support their city, and get customers involved," spokeswoman Natalie Noonan said.
The players received instructions in how to direct a pilot on the airfield and inspect a plane before takeoff from lead ramp service employee Nicolas Adame, a "die-hard Sox fan."
"On the fuselage, you want to look for any dents or deep scratches. When you get to the wings, you want to make sure there's no dents, no cracks or exposure, and that all fuel ports are closed and sealed," Adame explained after the lesson. "We're the last line of defense on passenger safety."
Rodón noted that for airline workers, "it's not an easy job, it's super cold or super hot" on the airfield. "There's a lot that goes into it."