By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The guy still hates everything about the Chicago Cubs, and the Cubs fan base feels the same way about the enigmatic A.J. Pierzynski, the fearless catcher and competitor who has taken on cities’ fan bases, media, coaches and players for the 16 years that he has toiled in the big leagues.
The 38-year-old Pierzynski has had a solid year for the Atlanta Braves. He was hitting .292 coming into Thursday night’s ball game. A return for yet another season is possible, depending on a family decision by the player, his wife and two kids.
“I am still playing, so I have not thought much about it,” Pierzynski said. “I know my wife wants me to stay home and do nothing, and probably my kids feel the same way. There are a other opportunities out there. Some people have asked me about coaching, broadcasting and other stuff. We will see. I definitely want to do something involved with the game. The sport has been so good to me. It will be hard to walk away. I have been doing this since I was 17 years old.
“It is weird to imagine it will all end. The guys I talked to, like Jermaine Dye and (Paul) Konerko all say it’s great. They say you enjoy playing and then you enjoy being away and having freedom.”
Pierzynski has an IQ estimated in the 150s and has self-taught himself many things that have furthered his education, despite missing college for baseball. Managing would probably come natural for the Florida native, despite having a sharp tongue and a blunt view of the game he loves.
“Someone comes to you and says here is a three-year deal to manage a big league team — it would be hard to turn down that offer,” Pierzynski said.
The image of baseball’s most hated player is both something the entertaining Pierzynski embraces and hates at the same time. He reminds that he’s a person, husband and father first and a public figure after.
“First of all, there are two different people — the on-the-field player and the off-the-field person,” he said. “I think that is where people get confused. On the field, I just want to win. I will do anything I can to do just that. Off the field, I can go and hang out and have dinner and beers. If you’re pitching that day or playing against me, I want to beat you. As soon as the game is over, we can be friends again. That is the way I was brought up. People get mad sometimes, but I want to win, have fun and compete. If it ends tomorrow, I know I had a great time and did everything I could on a daily basis to give all I had to baseball.”
Pierzynski has had a close relationship with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and that has continued after leaving the team three years ago. I asked the man who caught for the 2005 world champions if he would be tempted to return to the White Sox in some capacity down the road.
“I would certainly think about it,” he said. “It would depend on what the job was. Everyone knows what I think of the White Sox and the city of Chicago in general. I would have to think about it, but he would also have to make that phone call.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.