White Sox legend prepares for final games

Hdidn’t receive a surfboard or a customized guitar on his farewell tour. There was no national media frenzy when he announced this would be his last season in the major leagues. ESPN hasn’t created a baseball diamond that lists all of his former lovers.

Chicago White Sox’s first baseman, Paul Konerko, just needs Metallica’s “Harvester of Sorrow,” a blue seat in the outfield of U.S. Cellular Field, and the last grand slam in a World Series game. Those three things alone make him a legend on the south side of Chicago.

Konerko is retiring after 16 seasons, almost all with the White Sox. During his time with the team, Konerko has been to six All-Star games, is second to Frank Thomas in the all-time White Sox home runs (439) and hits (2,338) list, and has a World Series Championship ring.

It is fitting that there is little national attention on Konerko’s last season. He has been the captain of a team that has always been “the other team” in a city that bleeds Cubby blue. Always serious, the only time he drew attention was when he hit a ball deep into the stands with that swing of his that is so familiar to White Sox fans.

Konerko was drafted by the Dodgers and made his debut in 1997. He was traded to the Reds and played 26 games there. He found his true home in 1999 when he was traded to the White Sox. From there, the rest was history.

He started to become a fan favorite. During a time where so many players played the game the wrong way, he did it the right way. The home runs continued to collect and so did the number of MVP votes.

Konerko was always faced with opportunities to leave the South Side.  In 2006, the Orioles tried to scoop him up after the White Sox championship season. After the 2010 season, where Konerko had a career-year, hitting .312 with 39 homers and placed fifth — his highest finish — in the AL MVP race, the Diamondbacks tried to steal him away. Again, Konerko stayed home.

Heading into the 2014 campaign, White Sox management faced questions from the fans when it was announced that Konerko would return in a limited role to play in a final season. Many believed it was a waste of a roster spot. Others realized the importance of a farewell season and the effect he could have on rookie José Abreu.

He has only played in 74 games during the 2014 season, hitting .220, 22 RBIs and five home runs. Konerko has recently dealt with a hand injury but is going to try to play through it in his final week.

It’s been the way Konerko conducts himself that leads him to be a hero to many people, including myself. I have never been the most vocal person. But growing up, I always looked at Konerko and saw the way he could let his actions do the talking for him.  This has always been something that has inspired me and, I’m sure, countless others to work hard and inspire other people through the hard work that they do.

With Konerko’s numbers, it is doubtful he will make the Hall of Fame. Many believe he does have the numbers for the “Hall of very good,” but you can guarantee the White Sox will retire his number 14 and place his picture on the outfield wall between Luis Aparicio and Ted Lyons. There will be a statue erected at U.S. Cellular Field with him holding that stance that brought pleasure to so many fans — the pose he held after hitting his World Series grand slam.

I know it might be hard to take a trip up to Chicago to watch him play his last games. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the ballpark this summer to watch my favorite baseball player for the last time. But turn on your TV when the White Sox are playing. Not to watch the Sox lose, but to hear that Metallica song again, to hear Gene Honda announce Konerko’s name, and to hear the crowd chant it one last time: “Paulie! Paulie! Paulie!”

Michal is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him at bennythebull94.