SoxFest Day 1
January 24, 2014
It was all White Sox all the time at the first day of SoxFest 2014 at the Palmer House Hilton. From the packed opening ceremony and the introduction of players past and present to the throng of reporters at the media reception to the long lines for autographs and photos to the SoxSocial Lounge, it was a celebration of high hopes and expectations.
A Who’s Who
The long line of intros at the opening ceremony included a virtual encyclopedia of White Sox. In order, Sox public address announcer Gene Honda introduced them. Radio announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson; TV’s Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone; former GM Roland Hemond; Sox HR champ Bill Melton; ’83 A.L. Rookie of the Year Ron KIttle; Sox legend and current coach Harold Baines; All-Star Carlos May; Sox icon Minnie Minoso; former player and broadcaster Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek; one-time pitching ace Gary Peters; 2005 World Series hero Bobby Jenks; new hitting coach Todd Steverson; pitching coach Don Cooper (greeted with a long Coooooop); skipper Robin Ventura; Club President Kenny Williams, GM Rick Hahn and current day players Micah Johnson, Erik Johnson, Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Dayan Viciedo, Adam Dunn, Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Abreu, Avi Garcia, Gordon Beckham and last but certrainly not least, Paul Konerko and newly minted Hall Of Famer Frank Thomas, who both received standing ovations.
A New Deal
When Rick Hahn and Robin stepped up to opposite podiums on the stage at the media reception to talk about Ventura’s newly signed multi-year contract to remain the Sox skipper, Rick kiddingly said, “Welcome to the Hahn-Ventura” debates. It may have looked like a debate format, but it was far from it. Both were delighted that the relationship between GM and Manager will continue.
“We have announced a multi-year extension with Robin and we’re very happy with this turn of events,” Hahn said. “Robin, Kenny (Williams), Jerry (Reinsdorf) and I had numerous conversations about where we want to get to as an organization. In all those conversations, Robin was enthusiastic about where we were headed. We’re thrilled to have his leadership. We saw in 2012 and 13 two extremes. Through each of those extremes, Robin was unwavering, dealing with both the highs and lows.”
Robin added: “We’ve had a lot of conversations, a lot of communication. Nothing really changed where I want to be, what I want to do. I just wanted Rick to have the ability to go through a season with us working together.”
Hahn also addressed the ’14 season. “We are not going to write off any season, but we also have to be realistic coming off 99 losses. What we envision is a young core, coalescing and growing together. We enter 2014 wanting to win the whole thing, but we also want to see progress, steps forward.”
Robin summed up 2013 and looked ahead to 2014: “I don’t like to lose. We were focused on the right things, but the wins just weren’t there. Are people going to pick us to win this year, probably not. Does that mean we can’t win, no.”
PK also met the media.
He was asked about his new role. “It’ll be primarily in against lefty pitching, but I’m preparing to be ready for anything. There’s nothing you can ask me that I’m above. I can go a week without playing, or play three days in a row. When I’m not in there, I’ll help guys. Every team has older guys in this role, it’s just that I’m staying here as opposed to changing teams. I could have gone somewhere else, but it wasn’t what I was after. If I can help the team go in the right direction this year and they succeed down the road, I’ll feel good about that.”
Avi is Ready to Go
Avisail Garcia, who joined the Sox in the Jake Peavy trade last summer, is one of the new core of exciting players with a wealth of potential.
“It’s good to be part of the White Sox,” Garcia said today, saying that he needs to work on his consistency both at bat and in the field. “I feel great, I’ve been working hard. I can’t wait for Opening Day. I’m excited about all of our talent. We’re going to get a lot of chances to win a lot of games.”
The Sox are also looking forward to the high energy of centerfielder Adam Eaton, who came to Chicago from the Diamondbacks in the trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Angels.
He shared some thoughts with reporters:
“My goal is to have a good year. Day 1, bring it. That’s something you should do every single day. Trying to win every pitch every single day.”
“I’m 5’8″, everybody in Chicago is taller than I am. I feel like little kids graviate to me because I’m on the same level. I want to be the blue collar player that they say, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?”
The Hall of Famer
In one of the most entertaining seminars of the night, Hawk and Wimpy interviewed the Sox’s newest Baseball Hall of Famer, The Big Hurt, who was greeted with a loud standing ovation.
Here’s a sampling from the seminar, which also included questions from the fans:
“It was a big dream for me to be in the Hall of Fame. I was nervous about the voting and honored to get in on the first ballot. I’m so glad I’m going in as a Chicago White Sox player and make you guys proud.”
Toughest pitcher he faced: “Jeff Nelson.”
Advice he got from Hall of Famer and former teammate Carlton Fisk, when Thomas first reached the major leagues: “Rookies should be seen and not heard. Go out and perform, don’t run your mouth.”
Pitcher he had his way with: “Mike Mussina, for some reason I saw everything come out of his glove.”
Most influential managers: “Gene Lamont and Ozzie Guillen.”
“Was there ever a doubt?” Harrelson asked the crowd about Frank’s election to the Hall of Fame.
“Watching Frank for 16 years in a White Sox uniform was one of my biggest thrills. For a period of time there he was the greatest righthanded hitter I every saw. He busted his butt, I never saw him dog it. And played hurt.”
“The ascent of the White Sox came with Frank. From 1990 to 1998, the Sox had the most wins in the majors.”
“Frank was the best breaking ball hitter I ever saw.”
“Frank could play in any era, any time.”
“I had the honor of watching Frank every day. Watching him play was one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had in baseball.”
The Cuban Connection
Tomorrow’s Schedule, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Autographs, Photos and a variety of seminars: Recharged and Remade: Your 2014 White Sox with Hawk Harrelson, Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura; El Beisbol, Con Orgullo: The Cuban Connection with Minnie Minoso, Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo; From the Draft to the Big Leagues with Buddy Bell, Nick Capra and Doug Laumann; Movies, Music and More with Laurence Holmes, Adam Dunn, Adam Eaton and Matt Lindstrom; and Sox Southpaw Stories with Billy Pierce and Gary Peters.