Calling on road in '16, Hawk focused on family

Legendary White Sox broadcaster wants to spend more time with grandchildren

Calling on road in '16, Hawk focused on family

CHICAGO -- Ken "Hawk" Harrelson has been known as the colorful, almost one-of-a-kind White Sox television voice for 31 years.

But in making a move to broadcasting primarily road games, as well as the 2016 home opener and the Cubs series at U.S. Cellular Field, as announced on Wednesday by the team along with the addition of Jason Benetti as Harrelson's home counterpart, the 74-year-old focused on a more important non-job-related title: Grandpa.
 

Jason Benetti joins White Sox TV

"I can't lose all this time," said Harrelson of being away from his three grandchildren.

If people think Harrelson is effusive in his praise of White Sox players and unwavering in his support, just listen to the proud grandfather talk about Nico, Alexander and Hank. Harrelson said Wednesday that his older two grandchildren, who are 12 and 9, respectively, have a chance to be really good athletes. They will be playing travel baseball this summer, and Harrelson wants to watch them in action.

While his family sits as the strongest reason for Harrelson's change, he readily admits the 2015 season took its own toll. Harrelson said last Spring Training that he thought the Cubs and White Sox could match up in the World Series, only to have the White Sox finish with a disappointing 76 wins.

Harrelson had considered shortening his schedule prior to the start of the 2015 season, but when general manager Rick Hahn made a series of impact offseason moves, culminating with the addition of Melky Cabrera, Harrelson told his wife, Aris, they were committed to the full year.

Working the road games makes it easier for Harrelson, who lives in South Bend, Ind., to be closer to his family. He has been making the 95-mile trip in each direction for eight seasons. That trip often involved leaving night games after midnight and being back in Chicago the next day.

"Hawk and I and [senior director of business development and broadcasting] Bob Grim, Jerry, we've talked about it for quite some time: What does he want to do? When does it end?" said White Sox senior vice president/sales and marketing Brooks Boyer. "People can't do it forever. But we have an open dialogue all the time on this.

"We took this step. And this step is the right thing for Hawk, and it's the right thing for his family. Then whenever there's another step to take, we'll take it. I don't know when that's going to be."

The change doesn't mean Harrelson will be absent from home games. Harrelson will be at U.S. Cellular Field from time to time and serve as a sort of ambassador with his fan interaction.

"He loves the White Sox. He loves the White Sox fans. It will be a way for our fans to interact with him -- maybe even on a more personal level," Boyer said. "He said he wants to come as a fan, which is great."

"Hell, I love to watch the games anyway," said Harrelson, who plans to bring his family to home games. "I don't want to lose contact with the fans."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.