Sox Drawer: Thome close to finish line?

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Sox Drawer: Thome close to finish line?

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011Posted: 8:12 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

It's three-and-a-half hours before the first pitch between the White Sox and Indians, and Jim Thome is back in Chicago, all alone in the bowels of U.S. Cellular Field, taking his customary whacks into a baseball net.

With the scent of Bengay surrounding him, Thome is preparing his 41-year-old body for Thursday's game, the 2,745th of his major league career. Thome is one who always lives in the now, playing for the present. However, here in the final month of the season, with his numbers tailing off just like they've done for every baseball great to ever play the game, there's a part of Jim that is starting to see the finish line.

"You can't play baseball forever," said Thome, seated in the Indians dugout, back with the team that drafted him in the 13th round in 1989. "To sit here and answer today, 'Am I going to play next year?' I don't know. That being said, you go out and you enjoy it. If we're not able to get into the playoffs and we go home, I'll enjoy every moment that I was able to come back to Cleveland and be apart of this great organization that drafted me, and look at it being very special."

Since the time he learned how to walk, Thome has basically had a bat in his hand. Baseball is what he knows, and what he does. It's provided Thome with a bright path to follow all these years. But what happens when that journey comes to an end?

"I think that's a challenge, and also something I look forward to, being there everyday with my family and turning to that phase of my life," Thome said. "None of us baseball players have been home everyday, and it's exciting to think about it, and also a little bit scary, because you don't know what the next chapter is. Maybe I will stay in the game, that's kind of the feeling, but I don't think any player really knows until after they retire."

Two weeks ago, the internet nearly exploded in Chicago when rumors spread that the White Sox had attempted to claim Thome off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. It would have brought Thome back to the Southside for one final curtain call. Thome heard the same rumors we did. However, it was the Indians who nabbed him, giving Thome the possibility of ending his career with the team where it all began.

But Chicago still has a special place in Thome's heart. He and his family still live here, and he plans to retire in Chicago when his career is over.

"I think everybody knows my history here in Chicago. I have fond memories. Jerry (Reinsdorf), the organization has treated me great here," Thome said. "That was a very special time in my career, especially with everything that happened with Mom, and coming home and getting the opportunity to play here was very special."

If you'd like to see Thome play again, this might be your last chance. It's the Indians' final trip to Chicago this year, and not knowing what the future holds, it could be the unofficial good-bye for the burly slugger who has belted 602 home runs in a career that should ultimately end at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Thome played only three-and-a-half seasons with the White Sox (2006-2009). Does he wish he could have stayed a little longer? The answer is yes, but....

"I would pick every team that I played for and say, 'Man it would be very special to have played for them a little longer,' absolutely yeah," Thome said. "But that's the business and that's part of it. You don't have any second regrets. You don't look back and go, 'I wish here, I wish there.' It's all been positive and great."

And that's the essence of Jim Thome, a man who seems to live in a world where it's always 75 degrees and sunny with light winds. His carefree demeanor blended with a burning desire to win has made him one of the game's most popular players both on and off the field. When time expires on his career, he'll have decades of memories to look back on. But why wait until then? Thome is soaking it in already.

"As we go through baseball it's a whirlwind, and it goes by so quick that sometimes you need to take a step back and reflect on it and smile."

He smiles. We cheer. He's earned every one of them.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How big of a piece is Luis Robert in the White Sox rebuild?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How big of a piece is Luis Robert in the White Sox rebuild?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (Northwest Herald) join CSN's David Kaplan on the panel. The Cubs new-look offense explodes while the Brewers are none too pleased with Saturday’s cancellation. Is there a budding rivalry between neighbors?

The White Sox get their man and sign Cuban prospect Luis Robert. How big of a piece is he in the rebuild?

Plus, the guys discuss how Mike Glennon will react when he meets the media, and they’ll try to figure out why Kap goes full meatball when LeBron James struggles.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

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'White Sox Cornerstones' specials air tonight on CSN

'White Sox Cornerstones' specials air tonight on CSN

The White Sox tout one of baseball's best farm systems, and CSN is taking you behind the scenes of those teams and top prospects with our latest Original Production.

White Sox Cornerstones: Charlotte and White Sox Cornerstones: Birmingham & Winston-Salem, presented by Ozinga, will air back-to-back tonight at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on CSN. You can also catch a live stream of both airings right here via the NBC Sports app.

White Sox Cornerstones: Charlotte will provide viewers a look at some of the brightest young stars in the game, including baseball's top prospect Yoan Moncada. The 21-year-old Moncada is batting .333 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in 33 games and was recently named the International League Player of the Week. We sit down with Moncada to discuss his development as a player, as well as his relationship with White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

The Knights also tout top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito, as well as pitchers Carson Fulmer, Zack Burdi and Reynaldo Lopez. Burdi and Fulmer will "walk to work" with CSN and discuss their mentality leading up to a game, what it means to be part of a rebuild and how their Charlotte teammates remain competitive even off the field.

You'll also hear from White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, Knights manager Mark Grudzielanek and Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty.

Then stay tuned in for White Sox Cornerstones: Birmingham & Winston-Salem as we ride the bus with the Birmingham Barons following their road win over the Montgomery Biscuits. The 90-minute bus ride includes interviews with No. 3 prospect Michael Kopech, who is 2-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 2017. The 21-year-old who came over with Moncada in the Chris Sale deal this past winter has struck out 51 batters in 35.1 innings. Kopech discusses his obsession with being the best and his thoughts on being a part of the White Sox rebuild.

We'll also travel to Salem, Virginia as the White Sox square off against the Salem Red Sox. CSN will sit down with No. 6 prospect Zack Collins and pitcher Tanner Banks. Collins discusses his thoughts on becoming the catcher of the future on Chicago's South Side.

You'll also hear from propsects Luis Alexander Basabe, Dane Dunning, Spencer Adams and manager Willie Harris, among others.