Home opener still special for veteran Konerko

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Home opener still special for veteran Konerko

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 3:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The 3-2 White Sox returned home for their first game in Chicago, packing a couple of players who werent sure theyd return after last season, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.

Konerko begins his sixth season as White Sox captain and has insisted since the end of 2010 that he never counted Chicago out as his 2011 destination.

Home openers are always special, he said. You remember every Opening Day. You remember every home opener. At least I do; other than getting to the playoffs, that will be the only time all year that has that feel. Definitely, thinking back to last year, I didnt know where Id be, I didnt necessarily think I wouldnt be there. I just didnt know.

As for the popular players connection to fans, Konerko feels it as strong as ever.

Its nice. It means they appreciate that youve showed up and played, he said. It kind of gives you energy to go out and do it again because the longer you play, the tougher it gets to drag yourself out there every day and get after it. When youre at home, you should draw energy from your fans and Opening Day at home is the most youll get all year, barring the playoffs so you try to use it.

Pierzynski was literally one phone call from joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, a move he didnt want to make but after the big-money signings of Adam Dunn and Konerko, the White Sox coffers were thought to be dried up.

I expect a nice ovation, Guillen said. PK has been here for so long and A.J., everybody in Chicago likes AJ and I dont know why. Maybe because hes Polish.

Guillen is thrilled when longtime players are honored by teams, and expected a nice reception for both players.

They are playing good for us and have been playing good for a long time, he said. We are very excited to have them here because I remember when I took those guys out in 2010s season finale, when both players received long ovations, in the back of my mind, I was saying bye to them. I thank God, owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams we brought those guys back.

As far as Opening Day, however, dont count Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen as a huge fan.

I have to deal with all of these people, Guillen lamented. Opening Day, back home, its all exciting. You have the PR guys with suits and ties, like its a special day. You see the people in the front office with the suit and tie, like they are going to be in the team picture.

Still, Guillen knows how important the day is for fansvirtually an official holiday for fans of the home team.

Opening Day here is exciting because the fans, he said. To me, its for the fans and the media. You have a chance to come back home and enjoy this day. Its a special day for people. For me its another year in the big leagues, another year back home. Its my 21st with the White Sox. I cant wait until the game starts.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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