Paul Konerko is entering his 15th season with the White Sox. We all know a few things about our captain: he has a PhD in hitting, he has a 16,000 square foot house in Scottsdale, Ariz., he's incredibly tough and he won't be winning any 100-yard dash competitions.
This is the Konerko we know. But what about the Konerko who existed before we knew him? I went back and checked the back of his old baseball cards to see what they had to say.
1995 Topps #139
Yakima, Washington is a long way from L.A., but Paul did a pretty fair Mike Piazza imitation for the Dodger farm club there in 1994. He led the Northwest League with 58 RBI's in 67 games while batting .288 with a .432 SLG mark. Paul registered 358 total bases in 4 seasons at Chaparral (Scottsdale) High School for a career 1.006 SLG PCT.
A fair Mike Piazza imitation? Ah yes, the Dodgers did draft Konerko as a catcher. Although being sandwiched between Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek as the 13th overall pick like Konerko was is a far cry from being the 62nd round pick (1390th overall) Piazza was.
1995 Collectors Choice #222
After a stellar high school career in Scottsdale, Arizona, Konerko was coveted by both Arizona State University and the Dodgers. He was drafted 13th overall and signed with the Dodgers. The young catcher showed them the hitting promise they were after, batting .288 with six home run and a league-high 58 RBI for Yakima.
Imagine if Konerko would have gone with Arizona State... going the same Sun Devils-to-Major Leagues route as Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds and Dustin Pedroia.
1997 Bowman #130
RESUME: Opened '96 season as youngest non-pitcher in Double-A... 2nd in Texas Lg. in HR's and SLUG (.543)... An All Star in 2 of his 3 leagues.
SKILLS: Among game's most promising young hitters... Tremendous balance, power, patience... Truly rare bat speed... Ideal intangibles... Signed as C, converted to 1B in '96, worked out at 3B in Ariz. Fall Lg.
UP CLOSE: Ended 21-inning game (5 hrs, 56 min. plus 3 rain delays) with RBI single (5/21/95).
Ideal intangibles ... Isn't it fun to see what the scouts say about players before they came stars?
1998 Score Rookie/Traded #RT250
Paul won several 1997 Minor League Player of the Year awards, including those given out by Baseball America and USA Today Baseball Weekly. He led the Pacific Coast League in home runs (37), RBI's (127) and slugging percentage (.621) while showing his excellent strike-zone judgement by walking more often than he struck out. As if all that wasn't remarkably enough, Paul did it as one of the PCL's youngest players and while learning a new position. Drafted 13th overall in 1995 as a catcher, Paul is a career .300 hitter in the minors with 92 homers and 350 RBIs in 452 games.
It's crazy that Konerko was at the top of the prospect lists back in the day.
1998 Stadium Club #352
With a reputation as a prospect that rivals that of teammate Mike Piazza comes Konerko, USA Today and Baseball Weekly's 1997 Minor League Player of the Year. The big right-handed hitter, who ranked second in home runs and fifth in RBI in all the minors, is a mature player and an offensive technician.
Another Piazza reference, and the phrase "offensive technician." Sounds like something Hawk Harrelson would (and still might) use.
1998 SP Prospects #70
Konerko, arguably the Dodgers' top prospect in '97, became the first player in Albuquerque Dukes history with 30 homers and 30 doubles in a season.
He was the only player in Albuquerque Dukes history to do that. They stopped being the Dukes following the 2000 season. Albuquerque rejoined the PCL in 2003 as the Isotopes. Joe Dillon had 30 HR, 33 2B for the Isotopes in 2004.
2012 Topps #105
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