Konerko's quiet dedication pays off

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013 11:36 p.m. CDT

(MCT) CHICAGO _ As the White Sox head to Washington for the start of a three-city road trip, team captain Paul Konerko is hitting .100.

And for those who don't know Konerko, that means he probably will spend a sleepless Monday night. Konerko is a notorious worrier, always tinkering in search of perfection.

"Always," he admits. "There are moments when you know you've got it and when you feel like you're swinging the bat, you're working hard to keep it. And then there's other times when you know you don't feel great up there and you're working hard to get it.

"You're always working hard. There's no real in between."

It is that hard work and dedication that has earned Konerko a soft spot with White Sox bosses. He is on his third general manager now, in this his 15th season with the Sox and he has played long enough and well enough to pass Frank Thomas on the organization's hit list.

He quietly passed Thomas on Friday with his 2,137th hit with the White Sox, third most all time, and could eventually overtake Thomas in home runs (Thomas leads 448-415).

Konerko has played in 137 games or more in all but one season with the White Sox. He admits that passing Thomas is a major accomplishment, though it didn't draw much notice.

"No. 1 is just being out there a lot and showing up to play," Konerko said. "I'm proud of that. ... (Thomas) walked so much because guys were afraid of him, so he had less at-bats to actually swing the bat. So there are things you factor into it, but it's cool nonetheless, any time you get mentioned with a guy that's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

"The biggest key for any hitter is trying to be as disciplined as you can to the work every day. It sounds easy, but it's hard to come in every day, year after year, and keep doing it."

It is that doggedness to be on the field, that desire to produce that amazed Jake Peavy when he was given the home locker next to Konerko when he arrived in 2009.

"He's a model of consistency, the way he goes about his business and works hard, and there's something to be said for that," Peavy said. "I can tell you what spot Paul is going to be standing in, give or take 10 minutes, on game day.

"He's got his routine and it works for him. To do what he's done year after year, at his age (37), is remarkable."

There is no flash to Konerko, no super seasons like Thomas had, no controversies like Thomas had. Just a quiet, steady, methodical work ethic.

"He certainly has been a guy who very likely winds up with his number retired at some point and winds up as one of the faces of this era in White Sox baseball," said general manager Rick Hahn, who has watched Konerko up close for 13 years. "He's a special guy."

Konerko spends as much time in the batting cages as the rawest rookies fighting for playing time. Always tinkering, to the point it has become an obsession.

"Yeah, that's what good hitters do," hitting coach Jeff Manto said. "They're always concerned about what they're doing. He's one of those guys who, the more he's tinkering the better it gets. For him it works."

"He's always in the (batting) cage, always thinking about it," manager Robin Ventura said. "When you have a guy like him, people see what he's doing. ... He is a leader. He doesn't have to scream. He does it by example."

Asked for an introspective thought about what passing Thomas means to him, Konerko replied:

"There's time in the future to look back at things. I'm just trying to figure out today."___

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