Chicago White Sox

Hall of Famer Jim Thome living the dream

White Sox great Jim Thome, who was inducted this year into the Baseball Hall of Fame, waves to fans before the Sox's game against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 11 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
White Sox great Jim Thome, who was inducted this year into the Baseball Hall of Fame, waves to fans before the Sox's game against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 11 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Everybody wants a piece of Jim Thome.

The beloved slugger was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29, a day he’ll never forget.

“Wow, is this amazing,” Thome said after taking the podium in Cooperstown. “These last few months have been an absolute whirlwind for a kid that grew up in Peoria, Illinois, hitting rocks in our gravel driveway on South Crest Drive with an aluminum bat until my family and neighbors couldn’t take it anymore.

“This is the ultimate dream come true.”

Thome said his first-ballot induction won’t truly sink in until the celebrations stop, so he is going to continue to float for a few more weeks.

On Aug. 11, the White Sox honored Thome at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The party moved to Cleveland on Saturday, as the Indians paid tribute and retired Thome’s uniform No. 25. A 13th-round pick in the 1989 draft, Thome broke into the major leagues two years later and played his first 12 seasons with Cleveland.

On Aug. 25, the Twins have a celebration planned at Target Field. Thome played for the Twins in 2010 and 2011.

Talking about himself has never been a favorite topic, but Thome did take some time to answer questions about his ride to the Hall of Fame.

Q: How was the induction?

A: It was fabulous. From the day we got there, Wednesday, through the induction, to even Monday, going and seeing your plaque, there were so many memorable, so many great things just along the way. It was really four or five days of just incredibles. It’s something I’ll never forget. And just the opportunities we get, all the great Hall of Famers and the careers they had. To now be a part of that family, it’s special.

Q: Your daughter, Lila, sang the national anthem in Cooperstown. What was that like?

A: She was just beautiful. I mean, I’ve been a part of three of her national anthems, and each and every one of them have been great. In that environment, I think she was more calm than I was, to be honest. I kind of broke down there. It was pretty special.

Q: It’s still sinking in, but how does it feel to be a Hall of Famer?

A: When a Hall of Famer walks in a room, I always remembered like everything stops a minute. Like (Harmon) Killebrew when I was with the Twins or (Bob) Feller with the Indians. Or you’d see Mickey Mantle or Wade Boggs, a Hall of Famer is just a special thing. Sweet swinging Billy Williams. When you hear about Billy Williams you think, “Oh my gosh,” like, one of the best left-handed swings. It’s very cool. Very cool.

Q: Your Hall of Fame speech was full of emotion. How long did it take to write?

A: It took, probably off and on, about three months. I had it written by June, I wanted it to be done in June, and then we tweaked it a little bit. Obviously, when you have an author as a wife (Andrea), that helps. I don’t know how much words can describe what she’s meant in that process and just to our life in general. The speech was great. The preparation was like playing. You work hard. You want it to go smoothly. My advice to the future guys that go in is take the time and get it done early, and then you can tweak it, but make sure you practice it. Giving a speech is not something I would say I’ve been used to doing. I’ve learned to do it.

Q: What do you remember about the early days of your career?

A: Cleveland drafted me. As a young player you never know who’s going to draft you. I was proud to go as a Cleveland Indian. And then the journey begins. From there it’s a long grind, it’s the roller coaster ride, the ups and downs and learning who you are. I was blessed to grow up in a great organization but also around great people that helped me learn the game.

Q: You played almost four full seasons (2006 to 2009) with the Sox. How did it feel to be an instant fan favorite?

A: I can’t speak for them, but I know growing up in Peoria and having the values, I think the people here like guys that play the game hard and are accountable, will do interviews even when times are not going well. Fans appreciate that. More importantly, these are very passionate people that want their guys to play hard for them. And you know what? They’ll show you that love. To be honest, that was everywhere I played. If you show that to them, I think they give that back in return.

Q: Your last season was 2012, and you joined the Sox’s front office in July of ’13. Was the plan getting back in the game as soon as possible?

A: I don’t know if you ever imagine what’s going to happen in the game. That’s why I’m always very open to things. When I retired, I didn’t envision coming back as quick as I did. For me, it was a lot about the respect I have for Jerry (Reinsdorf), to be honest. And the fact we live here, Buddy (Bell) was here, and being around Rick (Hahn) and Kenny (Williams), and the motivation I think is big. So that drove me down from this side, to try to be a part of a championship, just not as a player anymore, but now in the front office.

Q: Is managing in your future?

A: Well, like I said about working here, you never know. I don’t ever want to say never. I love what I do. I love working here. I love working at the (MLB) Network. The Network has given me the opportunity to be around the game, get to break the game down, get to teach young kids maybe a little bit about hitting or going into Studio 42 and giving advice. That’s what I love about it the most. But maybe soon, you never know. I don’t want to ever say never, but I love where I’m at right now.

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