Paulie Says Thanks and Goodbye
Thursday, September 25, 2014
It was cold, almost crisp, in the batting cage at 8:30 a.m. on a recent September Saturday morning. With a doubleheader later that afternoon and evening, it was going to be a long, long day.
I started to spread baseballs, dozens and dozens, out around the floor of the cage. The cameramen began to set up the shots, checking their angles.
My phone buzzed with a text.
“I’m out in player parking lot, think door is locked. PK.”
Great, Paul Konerko is getting to the ballpark hours early to shoot a video to say thanks and goodbye and he’s locked out!
A quick call to security later, Paul is in the clubhouse getting dressed, a steaming coffee in his hand.
For the next four hours, Paul served as creator, writer, director, you-name-it, as we taped his message to Chicago and to White Sox fans.
Several times during the taping, I thought to myself how perfect the symbolism was. Empty ballpark. No one around. No sound. Just Paul Konerko thinking and working in a space he has lived in — dominated, really — for the past 16 seasons. Here’s a six-time All-Star, a World Series Champion, picking up baseballs, again and again, over and over. Each baseball, a memory.
And Paul was particular about which memories to include. Sure, the World Series grand slam was in, and the parade, with a shot of his family. Home runs, too. But he also wanted some of the painful moments. The twist of his knee. The fastballs to the face. That time he just missed a pitch with the potential winning runs on base. He knew the exact situation. Opposing pitcher, count, the location of the pitch.
“That was more than a decade ago,” I told him. “I’m not sure we can even find the footage.”
But for him it was yesterday. How quickly a season goes. How quickly a career starts, blossoms and then fades.
Paul felt like the batting cage was the right place to film this because this is where the work gets done. Where the effort and sweat here leads to a key base hit outside, under the lights, with cameras and fans screaming.
But picking up those baseballs, time after time, also reminded me of something more personal. Probably like any kid who grew up playing baseball, you remember the times you hit in the cage with your dad. As I picked up those balls with Paul that day, I thought of the countless times I did the same thing as a boy with my dad. You hit a round of BP, then picked up the balls. Another 20 swings, more balls. There was a rhythm to it. There was a routine. There was shared labor, effort and sweat. There was improvement, day after day. Every day.
And then, one day it ends.
“You guys have watched Paul play for 16 years,” Paul’s dad Hank told me Tuesday. “I’ve watched him for something like 32 years. It’s going to be hard.”
I bet Paul and his dad picked up quite a few baseballs over the years. And now it’s time for Paul to begin throwing batting practice to his sons.
One ball and one line drive at a time. The way a career is built and celebrated.
Here is Paulie’s goodbye:
Just a couple of days until the Sox honor the captain. The pregame tribute on Saturday will include a memorable presentation with special guests, celebratory team-issued gifts and videos. First pitch is scheduled at 6:10 p.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early.
Where the Action is
Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone will broadcast Saturday’s game from Club Konerko (sections 158,159).
Quote of the Day
Paulie (with a smile) on what’s next after baseball (via Scott Merkin, whitesox.com):
“I’d really like to be good enough that I could play rhythm guitar in a bar band. If I could do that, it might trump everything that I’ve ever done in baseball.”
White Sox vs. Royals at U.S. Cellular Field (7:10 p.m., CT, CSN) in the opener of a four-game series and the final games of the 2014 season. Starters: LHP Jose Quintana (9-10, 3.22) for the Sox, RHP James Shields (14-8, 3.18) for KC.
Plays of the Day
In his final start of 2014, Chris Sale was his usual Cy Young Award-caliber self, allowing just a run and four hits while striking out 10 in six innings of work in yesterday’s loss to the Tigers. Getting a no-decision, he ended the season with a 12-4 record and a 2.17 earned run average, which will likely earn him the American League ERA title…Dayan Viciedo belted an RBI triple (click on link below).
With a pair of Ks in the first inning yesterday, Sale became only the fourth pitcher in White Sox history to compile 200 or more strikeouts for two straight seasons. His 10 strikeouts, which gave Chris 208 for the season, earned him the franchise record of 18 career double-digit strikeout games surpassing Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. According to @ckamka, Sale’s 434 strikeouts in back-to-back seasons is the most by a Sox pitcher since Walsh (509) in 1911-12.
Sale’s 10-strikeout afternoon:
White Sox vs. Royals at U.S. Cellular Field (7:10 p.m., CT, WCIU). Starters: RHP Hector Noesi (8-10, 4.39) for the Sox, RHP Jeremy Guthrie (12-11, 4.28) for KC.
Photos of the Day
Behind the scenes at Paulie’s video shoot: