White Sox hitting coach Walker has Paul Konerko in his corner
By Daryl Van SChouwen email@example.com September 19, 2011 10:14PM
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Hitting coach Greg Walker of the Chicago White Sox poses during photo media day at the White Sox spring training complex on February 28, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Updated: November 30, 2011 12:18AM
CLEVELAND — Greg Walker might walk when his ninth season as the White Sox’ hitting coach ends next week. Or he might not be asked back.
No matter what he does or where he goes, though, he knows one thing for sure.
‘‘With all due respect to any coach I’ve had in the past or any coach I would have in the future, Walk is my hitting coach,’’ first baseman Paul Konerko said. ‘‘He’s taught me to be smart enough to know what to listen to and not to listen to. Walk’s my guy.’’
Konerko, who has played through a painful calf injury for about a month, hit his 30th home run of the season Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. Coupled with his 103 RBI, he reached the 30-100 plateau for the fifth time in his career.
Credit Konerko for getting it done with hard work, knowledge of his swing and attention to detail. But credit Walker, too.
‘‘Since Walk came in ’03, I think about hitting in a completely different way,’’ said Konerko, who also is quick to praise the work of assistant Mike Gellinger. ‘‘There are a lot of things I’ve done since that I never would have been able to do, [including] situational hitting.
‘‘And I never would have reached the home-run totals. I would have capped out at 20 to 25 home runs 80 to 90 RBI. It wasn’t possible because of my mechanics and approach. He taught me how to do that.’’
In 2004 and ’05, Konerko hit 41 and 40 homers and drove in 117 and 101 runs. The Sporting News named him comeback player of the year in ’04.
‘‘When [Walker] showed up on the scene, I was pretty much at rock bottom,’’ said Konerko, who has 388 homers and 1,230 RBI in 13 seasons with the Sox. ‘‘He said, ‘You might get worse before it gets better, but by the time we’re done working, you’re going to know your swing more than you have before. You’re going to make adjustments on the fly.’
‘‘Before that, I would get hot and cold and not know why. Now I know why. You have to know what makes everything tick to get to that next level, and that’s what Walk has taught me the most.’’
Hitters say hitting coaches have the hardest job in sports. The hours are long, and the heat is on when hitters struggle. Walker might be shown the door because the Sox’ lineup has produced below expectations, but he might have had enough anyway.
‘‘I can’t think of another coaching scenario where 75 percent of the guys you work with hate the way they feel,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘A hitting coach is dealing with two or three guys who like where they are at that moment, that particular day. There is credit to be given — sometimes too much — but they get hammered too much when it’s bad.’’
In August, general manager Ken Williams said he liked second baseman Gordon Beckham’s college
swing. Walker took issue with that, and heated words were exchanged.
Beckham insisted his problems are the result of swinging at bad pitches and a lack of confidence. He said he hopes Walker returns, but it’s not his — or Konerko’s — call.
‘‘Oh, yeah, if he wants to come back,’’ Beckham said. ‘‘That’s up to him.’’