Friday, August 23, 2013
A.J. Pierzynski returns to South Side
By Bruce Levine
CHICAGO -- Former Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski returned to the South Side of Chicago Friday night for the first time since leaving as a free agent after the 2012 season.
Now with the first-place Texas Rangers, Pierzynski, who spent eight seasons with Chicago beginning in 2005, will always be associated with that world championship White Sox team.
“This was home for a long time for me,” Pierzynski said. “Both of my children were born here. It is unfortunate that things happen, but I ended up in a pretty darn good place.”
Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of the Texas Rangers acknowledges the crowd before Friday's game.
The 2005 White Sox team won a championship for a franchise that had not won in 88 years, a pretty good memory to take with him to Texas.
“Well, obviously winning the World Series is No. 1,” he said. “No one can ever take that away from that group of guys. It was a very special group of guys that came together, got along and did some special things in a city that hadn’t seen that in almost 100 years. Those guys from that team are friends of mine for life. They are still some of my best friends on earth.”
Pierzynski has been a workhorse behind the plate, one of 13 catchers in baseball history to catch 90 or more games in 13 seasons. He downplays the hard work he has put into staying on the field in the sport’s most demanding position.
“To me it has been luck and genetics,” he said. “I always tell people I am lucky I have a good mom and dad. They gave me good genes. As a catcher you have to be lucky. There is always a ball that can hit you in the wrong spot. I have been lucky they haven’t got me yet. There is also a little bit of want to. As a catcher you have to want to get back there every day and I have been fortunate that I have been on teams where they have asked me to do that.”
The White Sox showed a video tribute to their former catcher in the middle of the first inning Friday evening. Pierzynski has been shocked at the poor season Chicago has had, entering play Friday with the second-worst record in the American League.
“Obviously I am a little surprised because coming into the season they had high expectations,” Pierzynski said. “Talking with guys who I am still friends with there, they are very disappointed where they are at. I know they are hot now. I certainly don’t want to see them play poorly because I have no ill feelings toward them. When we play them I want to see them lose, other than that I have no ill feelings at all toward them.”
Pierzynski is booed roundly by fan bases all over baseball. In a sports magazine survey a few seasons ago he was voted the most hated man in the game. The fiery catcher seems to thrive on the attention -- both good and bad.
“The ultimate goal is to win,” he said. “At the end of the day and [when] you’re done playing, I am not going to be looked at as a Hall of Fame guy. To me it is all about winning games. I have tried to do everything in my career to help the team win. If it has rubbed people the wrong way, I can’t worry about that. I know the guys on my side know I want to come and win.”
Pierzynski has a long and close relationship with Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, one that might find the intense catcher working in Chicago again after his playing career is done.
“Yeah, he asked me to be the president of the team,” Pierzynski kidded about their relationship. “We never have gotten into that type of conversation. We have a good relationship and we talk like friends. We have never had a formal conversation. Maybe I can take over for Hawk [Harrelson, team TV announcer] when he decides to step down. We have had very playful talks about stuff. I love Jerry, he has to be one of the best owners in all of sport.”
Pierzynski signed a one-year $7.5 million contract with Texas after talking with the White Sox but never receiving a formal offer last fall.