Levine: Konerko And White Sox Adjusting To New Role
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By Bruce Levine-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) – Paul Konerko has been more interested observer than participant in the first two weeks of the season.
After signing a one-year contract to end his career with Chicago, the iconic first baseman sat down and mapped out a plan with manager Robin Ventura on how he would be used.
“He has done all right,” Ventura said. “It is an adjustment. He kind of is playing along with the game and figuring out when he needs to get ready. He has been preparing along and was going in last night if we needed him.”
The iconic Sox star will be retiring after the season and his transition to retired player is already in motion.
“For me it will not be about any numbers I can put up this season,” Konerko said. “What I am looking at is if I can impact a handful of games and help change the result. I talked to Jim [Thome] a lot about it this spring. When he was at the end in Philadelphia, sometimes he would get a late-inning walk to help set up a winning or tying run. That is my role and how I have to look at things now.”
Konerko, one of the most thorough practice players in the game, is feeling okay in his role as cheerleader and captain when he is not playing.
“With the team playing as well as it has been, this has been fun,” Konerko told me. “This team kind of reminds me of the 2000 team [division winner] where you start gaining a little steam and some other teams hiccup. You never know what can happen.”
It was the White Sox who hiccupped last season, losing 22 more games than in 2012. Konerko sees new team leaders growing every day in front of him with this 2014 group.
“All these guys want to win,” he said. “There is also the agenda of all professional players to make a lot of money and get big contracts. As for me I am truly one of the only players in sports with no agenda for money or fame right now. This walk of stuff the last two games is like little league fun for me.”
Konerko has one hit in eight at bats while playing in six games thus far in 2014.
“The gig here for me is to talk to guys about their approach and be there as a sounding board. All the new guys are impressive in the way the play and prepare. Eaton – I am really impressed with him as is everybody around here. He is just a gamer and does everything right. He wants to be great and I am a really a big fan of his. Our other guys are doing everything the right way as well.”
The final curtain comes down on Konerko’s career September 28. Until then, the captain has one goal.
“My job is to say just call my name and I will be ready.”