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Konerko selected to AFL Hall of Fame

Konerko selected to AFL Hall of Fame

Konerko selected to AFL Hall of Fame
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko won't have to wait another decade to find out if he's a Hall of Famer.

Well, in order to get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Konerko probably has that timetable ahead of him with two years remaining on his current three-year, $37.5 million deal with the White Sox -- and a number of productive years to come after those. But as announced on Friday afternoon, Konerko will be inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame as part of a ceremony during this upcoming Fall League season, which will run from Oct. 4 until Nov. 19.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard completes the two-person 2011 AFL Hall of Fame class. The standout sluggers will be recognized in separate ceremonies.

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"It's definitely nice. Anytime you get put into any Hall of Fame it's kind of cool," said Konerko before Friday's game with the Royals. "It's certainly not for what I did in that league. I think I hit .210. But there's a lot of guys who have been in that league, so definitely I'm proud of it."

"Ryan Howard and Paul Konerko are record-setting, All-Star baseball players who epitomize the term 'consummate professional,'" Arizona Fall League director Steve Cobb said in a press release to announce the latest inductions. "They're great ball players, great teammates and great people ... credits to the game of baseball, on and off the field."

Konerko is hitting .306 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs entering the first game of an important weekend home set against the Royals, along with a .385 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentage. He's also the team's captain -- the only one under manager Ozzie Guillen's regime -- but he really leads by example, and would even without the title.

During a contest on July 31, Konerko took a 95 mph Andrew Miller fastball off of his left calf/knee area. He left that contest against the Red Sox and missed the next three games against the Yankees, but he has been playing with pain ever since. It's the sort of pain that is hampering Konerko's running, limiting the first baseman to a designated hitter's role, and garnering him the utmost praise from Guillen.

"I'll tell you what, everybody -- the manager, the coaches, players, fans, front-office people -- should tip their hat to this kid," said Guillen of Konerko. "He's playing with a lot of pain. It's a very uncomfortable situation to see him running.

"That's the reason I ask every day how he feels. I feel weird to put him in that situation. He wants to play and help us, and that's why Konerko is a very special guy in this organization. He gives everybody what he got. People should thank him -- not thank him, because he's getting paid -- but appreciate what he's doing."

Teammates of Konerko also appreciate what he's doing, although not without a little ribbing.

"A couple guys give him trouble, calling him 'Gibby,' where every time he jogs into second base, we're looking for the fist pump," said a smiling White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, referring to Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series moment following his walk-off homer against Dennis Eckersley. "It's got to be killing him.

"He's out there giving his all. He's not the fastest guy anyway, and this injury makes him even slower, but he's giving it everything he's got."

The 35-year-old Konerko played for the 1996 Sun Cities Solar Sox as part of the Arizona Fall League and is a five-time American League All-Star. He has hit at least 30 homers six times and produced 100 RBIs in five different seasons -- with those categories likely to increase this year --- while sitting just 16 hits away from 2,000 for his career.

Howard and Konerko will increase the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame to 28 members, with this Hall of Fame formed in 2001 to "honor the top Major League players and managers who honed their skills in the AFL," according to the press release. The selection committee, chaired by big league longtime front-office member Roland Hemond, bases its appointments upon individual Major League achievement since participating in the Arizona Fall League.

Other AFL Hall of Famers with previous White Sox connections at some level includes Jermaine Dye, Terry Francona and Jerry Manuel.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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