Greg Walker resigns
CHICAGO -- Holding court in front a select few members of the media, Greg Walker held it together as long as he could before his emotions got the best of him.
Walker made it known Wednesday that he is resigning from his post as the Chicago White Sox's hitting coach. He said that he actually made the decision about a month ago in a discussion with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Walker said it had nothing to do with Ozzie Guillen's pending departure, but felt it was time.
Despite the years of stress, despite the sometimes volatile encounters over the years and especially despite the harsh criticism he has received, Walker still had a passion for what he did. One month after making his decision to leave, it still didn't make it any easier to talk about the path behind him and the road ahead.
"They have known ever since I've been here if they had somebody else to do this job, (then) more power to them," Walker said. "I want what's best for the White Sox. It didn't have anything to do with the recent events. I was not going to be the hitting coach. That decision was already made."
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Walker's proudest moment was the 2005 World Series, as it was with everybody involved, but there was also the bigger picture that he holds his head high about.
"Yeah, that was pretty cool wasn't it?" Walker said about '05. "If you told me I was going to be a hitting coach in a major market, arguably one of the toughest things to coach in sports and have some success."
This season might have been Walker's toughest to endure. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham all struggled mightily and the hitting coach took much of the brunt for it. But Carlos Quentin managed to avoid his usual lengthy slumps and was an All-Star.
It was another solid season from Paul Konerko, though, that showed the kind of success Walker is capable of producing when instruction meets execution. When Walker first arrived on the scene in 2003, Konerko was an admittedly confused hitter at a crossroads.
The two began the process of breaking down Konerko's swing and rebuilding it. Konerko would go on to become one of the greatest run producers in White Sox history.
"I just know when he showed up here, what I thought about hitting and where I was at as a hitter, it's not even close to what I am now as far as how I go about it and how I work and what I'm able to do," Konerko said. "He's gotten me to places as a hitter and a player that I would have never gotten to without him. I think that's the best thing I can say."
Walker refused to take even a shred of the credit for Konerko's success, which is how he's always gone about things. He would rather be known as the guy who passed on the keys to hitting that were passed on to him. And along the way it was about enjoying the ride.
"We had some good times and tough times," Walker said. "There are going to be good times and tough times no matter who the hitting coach is. You just go through it. You do the job. (I enjoyed) probably the relationships with the players, people in the clubhouse the most."
Some of the rough times were more public than Walker would have wanted. His run-in with Guillen in 2008 was well-documented as was his shouting match with general manager Kenny Williams this season in what was believed to be about Williams' public criticism of Beckham's approach at the plate.
Walker got through it all, mainly because he wanted to do the best job he could for Reinsdorf. Walker not only got a chance to play for Reinsdorf's White Sox team, but coach it as well. And there was Walker's life-threatening seizure in 1988 during batting practice. Reinsdorf quietly paid for much of Walker's medical bills at the time.
So as Walker talked Wednesday, the emotions of his last day on the daily grind with his second family got the best of him. He said he didn't know what he might do next, but hasn't ruled out returning to baseball at some point and even returning to the White Sox in some capacity.
Walker and Reinsdorf will sit down in a week and talk about the future.
After a while it all became too much for Walker and he paused in mid-conversation and took a seat. By putting his face in his hands it signaled that he wouldn't be able to talk any longer.
"Yeah, it's been a tough few years on all of us," he said not long before breaking down. "Nobody involved in this organization the last three years has not been beat up. You have to go through tough times to make things happen."
"This organization is as relevant as it's ever been. When I first got here, there was nothing but Cubs hats on Michigan Ave. Now you walk down Michigan Ave. seeing White Sox hats. My small part in that, I am very proud of it."
Walker said he has no plans but will have dinner with Reinsdorf and discuss his future.
Walker spent nine seasons in the major leagues as a player with the White Sox (1982-90) and Baltimore (1990) and was a .260 career hitter with 113 home runs and 444 RBIs.
The White Sox have already announced they are bringing back pitching coach Don Cooper -- who served as interim manager the last two games -- and first base coach Harold Baines with multiyear deals. Bench coach Joey Cora will join Guillen in Miami. The futures of third base coach Jeff Cox and bullpen coach Juan Nieves are undetermined.
The team also announced Wednesday a four-year contract extension with popular TV announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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