Thomas proud with Big Hurt Brewhouse set to open

Thomas proud with Big Hurt Brewhouse set to open

CHICAGO -- Baseball served as Frank Thomas' profession for the past two decades. Actually, the game became more of a passion for the recently inducted first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

His Big Hurt Brewhouse venture, which had a private soft opening Monday night in preparation for this weekend's official debut, seems to be more of a labor of love for one of the game's most feared hitters. But he has put in the same intense work ethic toward making this new business the same sort of lofty success.

"This is what I want when I put my name on something," said Thomas of the high-end sports bar located 20 minutes outside of Chicago in Berwyn. "I want it to be a piece of me. I helped design every part of this restaurant/bar. I'm really proud of it.

"It took a long time, and it was hard work. But I'm very happy."

A near-capacity crowd sampled food and drink at the establishment that also features five different kinds of Big Hurt Beer on tap. Bo Jackson was in attendance, as were one-time Bears stalwarts Richard Dent, Otis Wilson, Patrick Mannelly and Israel Idonije. Jermaine Dye and Mike Huff, Thomas' White Sox teammates and friends, as well as numerous White Sox staffers also showed support on this big night for the Big Hurt.

"He has been working hard to try to get his beer going and now to be able to bring a restaurant to the city of Berwyn, I think it's going to be good for him," said Dye. "He told me he plans on being here a lot. So, it's going to be good for him to have something to call home and be involved in. And I'm just happy for him."

"In the latter part of his career, Frank really had tried to grasp the community, grasp the city and really try to make himself a part of the fabric," Huff said. "Something like this, to have a quality name and organization running this and a quality location, it's exciting to see him give back even after he retired."

Ozzie Guillen, who played with and managed Thomas, was joined by his wife, Ibis, his sons, Ozzie Jr. and Oney, and daughter-in-law, Sarah, during the event. Guillen had explored the possibility of opening a restaurant during his playing days with the White Sox but ultimately decided against a rewarding but tough business prospect in the always-tough Chicago area market.

"But I wasn't Frank Thomas," said Guillen with his familiar laugh, when talking about the top hitter in White Sox history.

"Everything is hard work to get it done, but it's a beautiful thing," Guillen continued. "This is not like a regular bar or regular restaurant. You see the details and what they have. It's amazing. Obviously, when you take on any bar or restaurant business, it's a lot of work. You have to continue, you have to compete with marketing and somebody else. You have to be on top of that. But it's a great idea."

The actual Brewhouse location represents a historical landmark, a one-time bank that has been around for 100 years and holds importance to the city of Berwyn. A bank vault door remains, only now it features the Big Hurt Brewhouse logo and leads into a dining area.

Both Thomas and Guillen returned from San Francisco on Monday morning and then took off for Kansas City on Tuesday morning to continue their respective broadcast work on the 2014 World Series between the Royals and Giants. Thomas enjoys the studio analyst role and plans to continue such work along with the Brewhouse.

If Thomas isn't part of a broadcast, there's a good chance he will be at the Brewhouse. Thomas hopes to make this establishment "a part of Chicago history," just like Ditka's or Harry Caray's before him.

"I'm back here full-time now because of this. I invested a lot of money in this. I'm here every day -- this is my business," Thomas said. "I love broadcasting. I'm going to continue to do it. With that and this, it will keep me busy and I like being busy."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for 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.