Commentary

Rookies' first steps

While the White Sox's rookies may not have arrived, the Crosstown Classic showed they are making strides.

Originally Published: June 18, 2009
By Melissa Isaacson | For ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The temptation was to load them into the minivan and take them to Dairy Queen for a consolation cone.

Instead, evil big brother A.J. Pierzynski seized the opportunity Thursday to dress up one of the kids, 22-year-old Sox rookie Gordon Beckham, in a Florida Gators baseball uniform -- complete with black socks and dress shoes, of course -- and parade him through the Wrigley Field crowd to the statue of Harry Caray for some souvenir pictures to commemorate the occasion.

That the occasion happened to be a rather heart-wrenching 6-5 loss to the crosstown Cubs had no bearing. There are no exemptions in rookie hazing. What's more, the Sox catcher knew something the rest of the clubhouse was in on too: If viewed constructively, this was also an occasion to look upon positively.

The kids may not have exactly arrived in this split series, but they may have taken their first critical steps.

Beckham and fellow rookie second baseman Chris Getz, who came into the series batting .114 and .249, respectively, were a collective 6-for-12 in two games against the Cubs with three walks, a double and a triple (both by Getz), three runs scored and three runs batted in.

Yes, there were glitches. Beckham had an error at third Wednesday and Getz had two at second Thursday, one of which was especially costly because the baserunner was one of three runs that scored on Derrek Lee's three-run home run in the eighth to pull the Cubs to within one at 5-4. But Getz also saved a run in the fourth with a diving stop of a Kosuke Fukudome grounder up the middle.

"The first one was a terrible hop, a terrible hop," Beckham said in defense of his teammate. "Things happen, nobody's perfect and we wouldn't have been in the position we were if he hadn't been hitting the ball all over the field. We would've lost way before then."

Beckham said he and Getz count on each other to get past the bumps.

"We lean on each other and pick each other up," he said. "I looked at [Getz] when he made that error and said, 'You're going to get another [chance]' and [on Wednesday] he looked at me and said, 'You're going to get another [chance],' and we both did and made the plays."

Among the top items on manager Ozzie Guillen's wish list has been that the bottom of his order would start carrying its weight as the top of the order has come around. Brian Anderson, who, at age 27, is the unofficial veteran of that 6-7-8 group, was 3-for-6 in the two-game set with a pair of walks, a run batted in, a run scored and a charging grab in center that prevented a run Wednesday.

"Me, Getz and B.A., we got on and got some things going, which helps the guys at the top of the lineup," Beckham said. But more than that for Beckham and Getz was the seasoning that can come in a regular-season series that was as close to a playoff atmosphere as a rookie can experience in June.

"It was awesome," said Beckham, who took some long looks at Wrigley Field in his first trip there, and admitted to butterflies. "If you're in one of those games and can compete and can play well, then you can do it on a regular basis, no matter what. So I think today was great for me personally because I got a little more confidence and I'm still building it.

"I told myself about a week ago that it could only go up from where I was at. I'm starting to have better swings. ... [I'm] really seeing the ball a lot better. The game is getting a little bit easier."

Beckham would not go so far as to agree the game has been "a blur" for him as was suggested. But Getz understood the question.

"Literally speaking, the game is quicker," he said. "The baserunners are faster, the pitchers are throwing harder, but it's also everything that comes with it -- the atmosphere -- just because everything is magnified [such as] what you're doing on the field [and] off the field. I think that's what people mean when they talk about the game speeding up."

It was not a day the Sox bullpen will want to remember, having messed up a gem by Gavin Floyd. But even from Pierzynski's vantage point, it was a day in which to find some encouragement.

"They had a great series: Beckham, Getz, B.A.," he said. "They all got big hits, had awesome games today. I give them all credit. I look into the future and it looks bright."

Beckham looked into his locker and all he saw was orange, the color of his alma mater's rival and Pierzynski's beloved. But the former University of Georgia star willingly complied with one of baseball's rites of passage.

"Let's go sign some autographs," Pierzynski said.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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