Konerko embraces silence of retirement

Former White Sox captain happy to no longer be in spotlight

Konerko embraces silence of retirement

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there was a song needed to go with the retirement of Paul Konerko, it easily could be "The Sounds of Silence" by Paul Simon.

That particular theme becomes hard to pull off when you live in a house with three children under the age of 10. But as far as baseball is concerned, it fits perfectly for the former White Sox captain.

Konerko not only stood as the face of the White Sox franchise for the past decade or so. He also was the voice.

There were too many times to remember or add up when Konerko spoke with the media before and after games. When the home clubhouse was open after batting practice for a short time, Konerko would talk then too. Even in those few games where Konerko didn't play during his prime, he still sometimes would be an interview subject.

If someone wanted to know the White Sox inner-workings, if someone wanted to get an astute, detailed depiction or assessment of the team, they went to Konerko. But those pieces of baseball wisdom disappeared until further notice with Konerko's final postgame interview at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center on Sept. 28.

"It's not something I need to see my name in the paper or want that," Konerko told MLB.com during an interview prior to his retirement. "If I never do another interview, it's fine with me. That would be a good goal, actually. There's no need for it anymore."

Bypassing the media won't last quite as long as Konerko hoped.

His No. 14 is scheduled to be retired at some point during the 2015 season, which figures to require a speech in front of a large crowd at U.S. Cellular, not to mention a few moments of press reflection. And the White Sox will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the '05 World Series championship, meaning the ALCS MVP and the man who launched the Game 2 grand slam off Chad Qualls will be a necessary and required attendee and speaking participant.

Spending in the neighborhood of 5-to-10 minutes per day talking about the team or even his individual accomplishments wasn't a favorite part of the job for the 18-year-veteran. But it was a part Konerko understood and embraced.

"I always felt like you should be at your locker before the game right around [pregame]. Then you should be at your locker after the game to answer any questions about the game," Konerko said. "I feel that's part of being a big league player, and unfortunately there are things that come along with the job that are part of the job.

"After that, I don't feel any obligation. I feel like that's where it kind of ends for me. I do think as a big league player you have those two responsibilities to be there. And it's just a progression."

Progression, as in, Konerko wasn't the go-to man when he first arrived in the big leagues or even when he first arrived with the White Sox. That job came over time, as he became an accomplished player and an accomplished leader. His words not only represented the White Sox but often alleviated pressure for other players who might have been struggling, with Konerko taking on the attention.

This media connection also points up a theme Konerko discussed many times during his final season: someone else soon will come along to take his place. It's simply the nature of the sport.

"You leave and somebody else steps in. It's going to go on just like everything else in the game," Konerko said. "There have been a lot of great people way better than I have that have played. Derek Jeter, there will be somebody playing shortstop next year for the Yankees.

"In all those situations, whether you are talking about the interview stuff, there's always going to be people coming and going. I've had a pretty good handle to give it its due respect. But this is not so much because of me. It's because of the position I'm in. I'm just keeping it warm."

Aside from speaking during those few aforementioned moments, Konerko's only baseball talk in the immediately future probably will come within his family.

"I've always felt like I got treated fairly," Konerko said. "There were a couple of instances where I could remember something turning into something that was totally wrong. But considering how many I've done, I feel like I've always been treated fairly. I gave them a good answer and tried to stay as cliché-free as I could.

"That's part of the gig to do those things. I can't see a situation where it would be needed. Maybe in some sort of charitable way, trying to promote something, but other than that, I'm done and there's no need for my input about baseball anymore."

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