Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: The return of Wimpy

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Sox Drawer: The return of Wimpy

Thursday, May 13, 2010
7:34 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com
The calendar might say it's 2010, but if you're watching or listening to White Sox games this weekend, they will both have a 1990s flare to them.

No, I'm not talking about the return of Mike Caruso or the "Deacon" Warren Newson.

Not sure if we could handle that.

Instead, calling the three games in Kansas City with Hawk Harrelson will be Sox legend and my CSN buddy Frank Thomas, who will be subbing for Steve Stone.

Meanwhile on the radio side, coming back after an 11-year absence, will be former Sox player, broadcaster, and eternal comedian Tom Paciorek, who will be filling in for Darrin Jackson for both the Kansas City and Detroit series.

Before he hopped on a plane for KC, I caught up with the man we all know as "Wimpy", to talk about the White Sox, his broadcasting career, maybe the greatest draft class in the history of sports (his in 1968), and why his baseball cards are only going for one dollar on eBay. Okay I lied. 1.25.

Chuck Garfien: How excited are you to be coming back, calling games with Ed Farmer in the White Sox radio booth?

Tom Paciorek: Im really excited, Chuck. It came out of the blue to be honest. Bob Grim (Sox Senior Director of Business Development and Broadcasting) called me a couple days ago and asked if Id be interested in subbing for Darrin Jackson. I really jumped at the opportunity to do those games in Kansas city and Detroit. The biggest thrill for me this week is to be able to work with my old friend Ed Farmer. You know Farmio didnt invent the curveball he just perfected it. Im really stoked about this whole thing.

CG: In the back of your mind, have you wanted to get back into broadcasting?

TP: Well, the last time I did any broadcasting work was in 2006 with the Washington Nationals. We didnt have a real good year (71-91) and I didnt think they should blame the whole year on me! I had a lot of fun doing it, and I wanted to get back into it. I tried in a couple different areas. Tampa Bay had an opening and MLB Network, but I didnt really get much of a response from them so I was pretty content to sit back and coach the Pine Crest Academy Middle School team (here in Cumming, Georgia) to a last place finish. We had five teams in our division and four of them made the playoffs. You can guess which team didnt make it. But we did have four wins this year which is one more than we had last year.

CG: From what you have seen from the White Sox, are you surprised that theyve struggled like they have out of the gate?

TP: I really am surprised that theyre struggling because I look at their starting rotation and I really like the guys. When you have guys like Peavy and Buehrle at the top of the rotation, you got to figure youre not going to go into an extended losing streak.

As for the hitting, Im really surprised especially since U.S. Cellular is one of the better hitters ballparks that the team hasnt hit the ball well. But they will. Theyll get it going. Ozzie will get them fired up. I think it will be a three-team race in that AL Central before its over.

CG: But when you see a team eight games back in the middle of May, it can be difficult to feel confident that a team can turn it around.
TP: Heck no. Thats nothing. The White Sox are a team that is really capable, when you combine their pitching power and defensive abilities, they could go on a 10-game winning streak and that wouldnt surprise me one bit.There are a lot of good teams out there. I dont think there are a lot of great ones. Theres no 1927 Yankees out there. So once a team gets a hot, and puts a good winning streak together, theyll get back right into the thick of things. The Sox have much more talent than their record would indicate.

CG: So I want to bring up the 1968 baseball draft. You were picked in the fifth round by the Dodgers.

TP: That was a pretty good draft.

CG: Yeah, Id say so. Im looking at it right now on the computer. Can you name the guys who were drafted in your class?

TP: It was amazing. Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Davey Lopes. A pitcher named Sandy Vance.

CG: There was also Doyle Alexander, Ed Ott, Geoff Zahn. An amazing 14 players ended up making it to the major leagues.

TP: It was a great draft and fortunately for all of us, we got to play for Tommy Lasorda in Rookie Ball in Ogden, Utah. It was funny. The first thing we did when we got there, he told us to get a piece of paper and pencil out and write a letter to the guy who was playing our position at Dodgers Stadium. So we all got down and wrote to Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Wes Parker, I hope you enjoyed your stay with the Dodgers because Im coming to take your job real soon.

No wonder everybody hated us when we got to spring training the next year. So here are guys in the lowest form of Rookie Ball, writing to the guys in the major leagues telling them theyre going to be unemployed shortly. Thats the kind of attitude we had, and the kind of thing Lasorda instilled in us from 1968 on.

CG: I also found some interesting stuff on eBay. Did you know youve got a lot of stuff selling on eBay.

TP: No.

CG: They range in many prices. You can buy a 1979 Topps Tom Paciorek card for 1.00. If its autographed from 1978, its going for 5.00.

TP: Get out.

CG: Theres a Tom Paciorek autographed 3-by-5 notecard going for 6 bucks. Theres not even a picture. Its just a 3-by-5 notecard.

TP: Ill tell you what. Thats a bargain. Ive always said that my autograph isnt worth much right now. But five years from now, its going to be worth much less.

CG: And theres a Tom Pacoriek game-used Louisville Slugger going for 185. How about that?
TP: Is it cracked? Thats how I used to order mine back then. As (former major leaguer) Art Kusnyer once said, I used to throw my bat and helmet before I hit.

CG: Meanwhile, its like Old Home Week, because Frank Thomas is going to be in the TV booth with Hawk this weekend in Kansas City.

TP: Yeah, hes my Pick-to-Click!! Im glad to see Frank is back, and doing Pre and Postgame shows with you guys. I think he should be with the Sox, because he did so many great things for them. I was there for his first six or seven years, every at-bat. And he was the best hitter in baseball at that time. No matter who the pitcher was, the better Frank was. He always got 2 hits off the ace of the other team, drove in a run, scored a run, got a walk. Things like that.
CG: After all these years, I still dont know how you became known as Wimpy. Im guessing its after the character from the Popeye cartoon who loved hamburgers.

TP: It is. In fact, it goes back to 1968 and that Dodgers draft. It was a family atmosphere that Lasorda created. We all ate and drank together. The first day we went out for dinner. Everybody ordered steaks, but I decided to order these big double cheeseburgers. From that day oncan you imagine that from June 1968 to today Im still known for ordering two double cheeseburgers instead of a steak?

CG: And one more question, is it going to be deja-vu for you, being in the booth, calling White Sox games?

TP: I think its going to be really cool. I know Im a little older. I havent changed much over the years, Chuck. Ive gained some weight, Ive dyed my hair white. But other than that, Im pretty much the same. I think its going to be a lot of fun. Ive always been a high-energy kind of a guy when Im doing this type of stuff, and I know Im going to be able to muster it up this weekend.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

How Alec Hansen's methodical path through minors has turned him into a top prospect

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Winston-Salem Dash

How Alec Hansen's methodical path through minors has turned him into a top prospect

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — He didn’t totally lose it, but the White Sox intended to restore Alec Hansen’s confidence with a methodical minor league program after drafting the right-hander.

Hansen, 22, admits that a junior season at the University of Oklahoma in which his stock fell sharply when he was moved in and out of the team’s starting rotation was difficult.

Still, the 6-foot-7-inch pitcher never gave in and found a team that believed in him enough to take him in the second round. Fourteen months later, the Single-A Winston-Salem starter feels good enough about his prospects to have recently suggested he thinks he can be a No. 1 or 2 in the majors.

“It’s tough, especially when you work so hard basically your whole life to achieve your goal of being a first-round pick or a top-10 pick and it kind of wastes away throughout the season,” Hansen said. “I think the White Sox had faith in me. They saw what I can do and understood my situation there at OU and took a chance on me and I’m just trying to make sure they get their money’s worth.”

Hansen has been everything the White Sox hoped and more since they selected him with the 49th pick in the 2016 draft. Once viewed as a potential first overall pick, Hansen was viewed as a project by the end of a rough 2016 season. Though he could hit 99 mph on the gun, Hansen’s mechanics were off and he was deemed inconsistent throughout a season in which he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 hitters in 51 2/3 innings for the Sooners.

But the White Sox liked what they saw. Hansen struck out 185 batters in 145 innings at Oklahoma. Their plan for the right-hander included a quick trip to Arizona to work with now-bullpen coach Curt Hasler on mechanics before he’d spend the bulk of the season at Rookie League Great Falls.

“He was a little bit out of whack,” said third-base coach and ex-farm director Nick Capra. “I think confidence played a big part in what he was doing early and to what he’s doing now. He didn’t have the confidence in what he was doing. Once he got into sync with what he was doing with his mechanics it took off on him.”

Hansen said the mechanical adjustments were related to better posture — sometimes he leaned back toward first base in his delivery — and keeping his head still. While he deems the changes as minor, the impact they’ve had on him has been great. After seven innings pitched in Arizona, Hansen moved to Great Falls and struck out 59 batters with only 12 walks in 36 2/3 innings and a 1.23 ERA. That performance earned him a late-season promotion to Kannapolis.

“The difference outing to outing is just mentally,” Hansen said. “It’s just mental and having the confidence and the poise and being relaxed and the right attitude to go out and be successful.”

[RELATED: White Sox Talk Podcast: Alec Hansen wants to be a future ace and don't piss off Dane Dunning]

The White Sox started Hansen at Kannapolis this season and he was dominant again. He produced a 2.48 ERA with 92 strikeouts and only 23 walks in 72 2/3 innings. Hansen — who’s rated the No. 9 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline and 10th by Baseball America — has continued to excel since a promotion to Winston-Salem 10 starts ago. He struck out 11 in seven innings on Wednesday night and allowed only a run in seven innings. Hansen is second in the minors this season with 166 strikeouts (he’s walked 43 in 126 innings).

Player development director Chris Getz said Hansen has the stuff to throw his fastball up in the zone and get swings and misses and combines it with good offspeed pitches. Throw in the confidence and Hansen has strong potential.

“Even though he’s a large guy he’s fairly athletic, he can repeat his delivery,” Getz said. “It’s really, with him, it’s staying over the rubber and not rushing out there so his arm can go out on time and on top of the ball. Those are the keys and he’s been able to take to that.”

“Since he’s really gotten into professional baseball and more comfortable with who he is as a pitcher he’s been consistent. We look forward to what else he can bring to the table.”

Hansen does, too.

He insists this belief in himself was never lost because Hansen suspected the consequences of doubt would ruin him. But Hansen didn’t downplay how the uncertainty of his junior season affected his mindset.

Hansen said he’s glad at how he handled the experience and has moved on from the disappointment of dropping 48 places. He's also more than pleased to have found an organization that has the same belief in him that he does.

“It was kind of hard to go through that but it’s over now,” Hansen said. “I believe in myself more than anyone. I think you need to as a professional athlete. If you don’t have confidence then you’re done as an athlete no matter who you are at what level.

“It’s just being more relaxed and comfortable and confidence because the people I’m around have confidence in me.”

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — No player has impacted the Double-A Birmingham Barons the way Michael Kopech has since … Michael Jordan?

That’s the belief of long-time Barons play-by-play man Curt Bloom, who said Kopech has garnered more attention than almost every player he’s covered during 26 seasons in the booth.

Bloom acknowledges that nobody will ever surpass Air Jordan’s 127 games with the Barons in 1994. But the advent of social media has made Kopech an extremely popular attraction this season. Whenever he takes the mound, the team’s social media accounts see a significant increase in page views, engagement and impressions.

“Jordan-esque,” Bloom said. “Nothing will beat Jordan. LeBron could come down. But this reminds me of it. It triggers it. A jolt.

“Nothing stirred like this guy has and I do say, and I think Kopech will tell you the same thing, a big chunk of the reason is we have social media. We didn’t have that for Jordan. We did not have that for Aaron Rowand. There’s always a ying for a yang.

“That being said, it’s still gone beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

It’s unavoidable to miss the Barons’ remembrance of Jordan’s season when he reportedly paid $350,000 to buy the club a luxury bus “The Jordan Cruiser and the Barons set records for attendance. The team drew 467,867 at their old stadium, Hoover Met, and Southern League attendance was more than 2.5 million.

Jordan’s image wearing a Barons No. 45 jersey can be found throughout Regions Field, including a massive banner near the home-plate entrance.

Kopech has been a focal point for White Sox fans since he was acquired in December.

Whether it’s his 100-mph fastball, his lofty prospect status or simply the fact he came over in the Chris Sale deal, eye balls have been drawn to Kopech all season. The right-hander has only increased the awareness with his steady presence on social media, including giving away game-used items to fans.

Throw in his recent dominance on the mound — Kopech has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in his last 41 innings — and the hysteria is real.

The Barons determined early on this season that they would follow in the steps of several major league clubs and anoint the day he pitched at home Kopech Day. The White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins have all recently done the same for Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jose Fernandez.

Kopech has only lived up to the hype.

“He’s answering the bell,” Bloom said. “There’s definitely awareness in the city, in our followers, the Twitter universe.

“My daughter Chloe who has no idea about baseball, she asks me, ‘Is Kopech pitching?’

"That’s what has been created.”