“You play for your teammates’ and your staff’s respect. I definitely care about the guys inside this clubhouse, what they think. Not too much beyond that. It’s nice, I guess, if people have that, but at the same time I think I know who’s important to me and hopefully I gain those people. If not, you work to get that.” – Paul Konerko
It is the statements like the one above that have made Paul Konerko such a vastly respected player, teammate and individual throughout his 13-year career in Major League Baseball. It seems that there cannot be enough great things said about the Chicago White Sox first baseman who, in an era rich with egotistical baseball players, has remained admirably humble.
To highlight Konerko’s influence on both his organization and the game itself, here are a collection of quotes from his coaches, teammates and other players around the league.
White Sox hitting coach, Greg Walker:
“I know people in contention are good clubhouse guys and great players,” Walker continued. “But if voters knew what [Konerko] did in our clubhouse, considering the year we have had, how he has gone out of his way to grab people and talk to them and spend time with them, while monitoring his own game in a contract year?”
“This is his best season, his most consistent,” said Walker of Konerko. “He’s one of the huge reasons we made a comeback. Managers and coaches can only do so much. It takes players and leadership. That word is thrown around some, but in his case, it’s very well deserved.
“He has been the most unselfish player I’ve ever been around. Maybe the game paid him back for doing it the right way. But if the MVP voters had been here to see what our staff and manager has seen him do, he’d win it hands down.”
Minnesota Twins SP, Carl Pavano:
“It’s not a big surprise to me. He’s been doing it his whole career. He fills in the gap. He could fill in the gap in a lot of places with those numbers. He has done incredible and plays every day, too.”
Detroit Tigers OF, Johnny Damon:
“When he gets hot, watch out. He can carry their team for weeks, even a month,” Detroit designated hitter Johnny Damon said. “His defense is a lot better than what he gets credit for. But he’s been in the heart of that lineup ever since he’s been there, and they’ve been competitive. He’s been pretty consistent over all that time.”
Teammate, Mark Buehrle:
“You could have a concussion and a lot of stuff that can happen when you get hit in the face”
“He pushed them[training staff] back and said he wanted to stay in the game.”
Manager, Ozzie Guillen:
“Hopefully players, not just the White Sox but in general, look at themselves in the mirror and see what this guy did,” Guillen said. “He has a chance to be the MVP, with great numbers and a great career, and he stepped it up like a man and played the game.”
Teammate, Gordon Beckham:
“If he leaves, then you have people that have to fill his spot,” Beckham said. “I don’t know if anyone here is ready for that. You have to think we need him back for the sole purpose of having a guy around who knows the game and is real cerebral about the game. He’s that guy.”
White Sox GM, Kenny Williams:
“I would love to have him retire as a White Sox,” said Williams.