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Paul Konerko heads into Wrigley one final time with fond memories

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Updated: May 5, 2014 1:04PM



CLEVELAND — Paul Konerko will take some pictures and say his goodbyes to the faces he has come to know around and outside the cramped visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

When the Sox play the Cubs at their 100-year-old ballpark Monday and Tuesday, it will mark another one of the ‘‘lasts’’ for Konerko, who is absorbing and enjoying his final season like none other in his career.

‘‘I wish I could have played every year of my career with the perspective that I have this year, but you can’t do that,’’ Konerko, 38, said Sunday. ‘‘It’s like asking a 25-year-old kid to live with the perspective he’d have at 70; you can’t do it. To have the perspective of what matters, it’s nice to have all that, and I’m enjoying what’s going on. . . . At this point, there are no regrets.’’

Konerko was undecided about coming back after last season
before agreeing to play one more season in a part-time role. After 32 games, starting against lefties and pinch-hitting late in games is beginning to feel normal, he said.

‘‘I’m getting more comfortable with that,’’ said Konerko, who is 6-for-15 in his last six games after a 1-for-17 start.

Konerko said he appreciates the history of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and he has to guard against being too sentimental when he’s there.

‘‘It’s that balance of taking in stuff because it’s the last time but not making such a big deal that you can’t perform when you’re called on,’’ he said.

‘‘Wrigley is like Fenway: You’re aware of the history there. The
facilities and amenities kind of put you out, but when you’re on the field and it’s game time, it’s a pretty special place. And it’s really good to hit in the summer.’’

Konerko has hit .311 with seven home runs and 26 RBI on the North Side. His fondest memories of the park are a two-homer game in 2002 — both after he was hit in the head by a curveball by Kerry Wood — and light-hitting Mike Caruso’s homer that gave the Sox a 6-4 victory in 1999.

The best moment of the Cubs-Sox rivalry for Konerko, though, was the A.J. Pierzynski-Michael Barrett scrap in 2006.

‘‘That was the crown jewel of Cubs-Sox,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘That was the shot heard ’round the world. If you reporters said, ‘What could happen in this game to give us our best story?’ you guys couldn’t have come up with that one. Then A.J. hits a home run against [Carlos] Zambrano the next day, gives it the Zambrano [point-to-the-sky] thing.

‘‘Back then . . . Cubs-Sox was like a trip to Vegas: action-packed all three games, morning, noon and night, people in town, you go out, it was just a . . . ’’

Konerko’s voiced trailed off,
reflecting on it all. Good memories, to be sure.

Finishing this way, having clarity that this is his final season, seems to have him in a good place.

‘‘Last year was so unclear going into the season, and everything is clear this year,’’ he said. ‘‘A buddy back home can ask me, ‘Can you do this next March?’ and I can say, ‘Yes, I can.’ It’s tough to be away from the family and kids, but when you’re
doing something for the last time, you appreciate it more and have more
patience with it than if you were right in the middle of your career.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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