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A Hectic Off-Season for the White Sox

February 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

CHICAGO — Ozzie Guillen's off-season was short and frenetic, a time to share the World Series championship with a variety of people in a lot of different places.

For a man who likes to talk, the manager of the Chicago White Sox had plenty of stories to tell and opinions to express to a wide variety of listeners.

"I never thought just because we did it last year my life was going to change everywhere," Guillen said. "To go back to my country and see people the way they react, walking the Chicago streets and see people and how excited they are. It was fun. But besides that it was a little tiring."

The frequent flier miles piled up for Guillen, who is as big a hero in Venezuela as he is to fans of a team that had waited 88 years for a trophy. The AL Manager of the Year also found time to become a U.S. citizen.

"I was doing a lot of stuff, especially when you speak Spanish," Guillen said. "I went to four different countries in the Caribbean, and down in Venezuela there was something to do every day."

But one thing Guillen wants to make very clear -- he'd gladly do it again.

"Hopefully, I'll have the same off-season this year I had last," he said.

The White Sox return to Tucson, Ariz., next week for spring training, which starts Feb. 17. It was just 3 1/2 months ago that they completed a World Series sweep of the Astros with a 1-0 victory in Houston.

General Manager Ken Williams made some changes in the off-season, bringing in Jim Thome, Javier Vazquez and Rob Mackowiak.

First baseman Paul Konerko waded through the free agent market before taking a $60 million, five-year deal to return. At home, he also got know his son, born during the playoffs.

Center fielder Scott Podsednik was busy, too. He had hernia surgery and helped plan his wedding. Third baseman Joe Crede, an avid outdoorsman, got in some hunting and fishing but spent most of his time with his daughters.

World Series MVP Jermaine Dye played a little golf and relaxed. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, in the middle of so many edgy plays during the postseason, spent a lot of time with his new daughter but also got to pal around with friend Johnny Damon in Florida.

The busiest component of the Chicago's first World Series winner since 1917? Maybe the trophy itself. It accompanied Guillen to Venezuela and made more than 100 stops in 50 cities as fans reached out to touch some history.

Dye made sure he spent time with his family and then got out and hit another white ball -- this one a big smaller.

"I like to play golf, so I had a lot of golf tournaments. I tried to get away from all the hoopla and relax a little bit and enjoy my short off-season," Dye said. "It hasn't changed my life. I go around and I am more recognized, but I'm the same old person."

Konerko, who became the face of the team and was the choice of Guillen to be the team captain in 2006 -- a role he has been reluctant to take -- didn't venture from his Scottsdale, Ariz. home, except to make an appearance at the team's winter convention last month.

"It is what you make it," he said. "If you want to go participate and all that and do it and like to travel and do all that stuff, you can have a ball. But me, I kind of had a built-in excuse because I had the baby. I was going to stay home and get adjusted with the baby, which is probably best for me. I wanted to get my rest in."

Konerko said he'd lived in the Phoenix suburb since he was 11 years old, pretty much in anonymity.

"I had gone back there every off-season since I was in high school and I never got noticed. Until this off-season," he added. "I don't think you realize how many people watch the playoffs and the World Series games. In Chicago they recognize a lot of sports personalities, whether you win or not, but at home it was the first time I had to deal with it, just going places and having people come up to you."

Pierzynski seemed to be in the middle of every controversial play involving the White Sox, especially in the AL championship series, when he reached first on a disputed low third strike. He knows he can't escape his reputation for finding trouble.

"People come up to me now and say stuff to me," Pierzynski said. "One saving grace I had is that I hang out with Johnny Damon a lot, so any time I go anywhere with him, no one cares about me. So I try to hang out with him as much as possible."

Crede, whose clutch hits were a big part of Chicago's 11-1 record in the postseason, relishes his life in the low-key atmosphere of Westphalia, Mo. There he has the everyday opportunity to hunt and fish.

He also had to deal with the tough business side of the game when teammate and good friend Aaron Rowand was traded to the Phillies for Thome.

The three months of down time were a little different.

"When I went back home there were a lot of people I really didn't know, they would come up to me and tell me a story about how I touched their lives in some way by winning the World Series or how they were watching a game or where they were watching it," Crede said. "To me, I like that stuff. It's neat to hear people's stories and I had a lot of fun with it."

Now it's time for the White Sox to somehow put 2005 behind them -- if possible -- and get ready to defend.

"I told our players to enjoy the last couple of days," Guillen said. "On Feb. 18, it's no more world champs. It's the White Sox."

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