Konerko at ease with decision, new role


CHICAGO -- The constant question of whether he’d return to the Chicago White Sox this season got to Paul Konerko over time.

It seemed like the only topic people sought to discuss with him. He recalled starting to deal with the inquiries back in 2012, and they only increased as his contract approached its conclusion after last season.

On Friday as Konerko prepared for his 15th SoxFest, he could feel the absence of that uncertainty and stress that came with those questions of his future. Since announcing in December he would return to the White Sox for one final season, Konerko now has an absolute answer for everyone.

“People say stuff like play a few more years,” Konerko said at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago on Friday. “This is it. My wife has laid down the law. This is it. But I’m clear about it.

“I’ve had people asking me about this since 2012. That’s a long time. You’re talking a year, two years of that nonsense of every conversation you had -- ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to stay? Are you going to go?’ It just gets old. It’s nice now if someone comes up, you can just be genuine and say, ‘Come out and see me because this is all there is. I won’t be here next year. If you don’t see me this year, you miss out.’”

Fans shouldn’t be surprised, though, if they come out and don’t actually see Konerko play on a given day. When deciding whether to return for the 2014 season, Konerko came to terms with not being an everyday player and accepting a different role than he’s been accustomed to throughout his career.

“What I’m preparing for is just be ready for anything,” Konerko said. “I don’t want a situation where I can’t go for Robin [Ventura.] If he says, play today or pinch hit here, the game’s 10-0 I need you to take this guy’s at-bat, whatever it is, I’m game for that.

“I went over all the scenarios in my head before I agreed to it. I don’t think there’s nothing that can’t be asked of me that I’m above.”

Konerko has witnessed plenty of veteran players take on a similar role. The only difference is he has noticed most players move onto to other organizations to do so. For Konerko, it was important to remain with the White Sox to embrace that responsibility.

“Someone told me if I had gone [somewhere else,] won a World Series, led the league in hitting, it really wasn’t what I was after,” Konerko said. “It wasn’t going to make me any happier probably.

“But if I come here and finish it up correctly -- help guys get going in the right direction a year from now or 10 months from now, this organization starting to move in the right way from last year, it kind of takes a step forward and does well -- I know I was part of that and I jump off, I’ll probably feel better about that then I would have gone with this other team and rolled along with them through the playoff or something.”

Konerko hoped to still be an asset on the field this season, but he also thought he could do good off it. He believed he could help encourage players and use his own career as an example for them.

“Every team has some older guys who have been through it all,” Konerko said. “I’m on the other side of that now. I’ve been wrong a lot, so I know what that’s like, too. Just be there for those guys. That’s kind of what I see it.”

Konerko also was happy to hear Ventura’s announcement of signing a multi-year extension Friday. Konerko believed the White Sox were in the right hands going forward.

“Just his demeanor; X’s and O’s, there’s a lot of guys that know that stuff, he certainly does,” Konerko said. “With any team, with a young team like we have now, he just doesn’t miss on how to handle guys and how to treat guys -- stern with them, can get his point across. But I think for our team of this makeup, it’s a good fit. I’m glad he wanted to stay. It’s a great move for the White Sox.”