You’ve been in the league for 16 years. Can you say your MLB career is just as exciting as it was that first year?
PAUL KONERKO: It definitely is. There are different stages though. I’ve been doing this since I was 18 and I’m 37 now so it’s different as a young person opposed to when you get married, have kids and take it all the way through. It changes and you see it in different lights as you go along but the end result is that it’s still pretty cool.
Has the time flown by?
Yes and no. I still remember things from when I was in the minor leagues like it was yesterday. It flies by on some accounts especially because I’ve spent it all in one place but I can lose track of when things took place. I’ll remember something that happened and think it was in 2004 when it was really 2007.
You began in a time when the way in which players interacted with fans was much different. Is it strange to see how much the internet and social media has changed the life of an athlete?
Yeah, I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. I understand that’s the way it is, the guys who play today don’t know any better and don’t know any different but I’m definitely happy I came up and made the cut before all of that stuff started happening. I feel bad for a lot of the guys now that have to play their whole careers like that. They can’t even go out and have a nice dinner without someone who isn’t even a fan taking a picture just because they want to post it to their Facebook account and show off to their friends. Maybe I sound old. The younger players went to college and high school with all of that stuff existing so to them it’s totally normal. Guys like me who had to make that adjustment during their career had to get with the times as we went but we’ll slowly fade away and social media will be completely normal, which it is starting to be now.
We’re about to talk to Gordon Beckham. You have 10 years of marriage and three kids under your belt, he is about to walk down the aisle. Do you have any advice for him?
Jeez, marriage advice? I don’t think it’s difficult when you get married and it’s just the two of you, the hard part is when you start having kids and there is a lot of time apart. You have to figure out ways to make it happen, even if it’s traveling. You don’t want to go too many days without seeing your kids and your family so you have to figure that out and if you can do that you play better, you feel better and it keeps everything a little more connected. Now when your kids get older and go to school, sometimes you don’t have a choice and you might have to go a month without seeing them. There are a lot of great things you get from the game but it also takes away a lot more than most people have to deal with. There is a lot of sacrifice.
Would your wife consider you to be the romantic type?
I don’t know. [Laughs] We are here 12 hours a day and it’s all the good part of the day so I think there’s a big difference in what you’re able to do in the offseason versus during the season. That doesn’t mean you don’t make time for that kind of stuff during the season though. If you ask my wife I think she’d probably say I am romantic in my own way, whatever that means!
What made you want to use your platform to support Children Home + Aid?
In 2006 Jim Thome was a teammate that I had here, a legend in the game. He talked about wanting to partner up to do something charitable so we took a few months and went back and forth on things that interested both of us. My wife’s family back home fostered and adopted kids. I saw for myself the impact that had on the kids’ lives so when Children Home + Aid was brought up we knew that was the one we wanted to help out. Jim played for us for four years and when he moved on Gordon Beckham took his spot and it’s gone well.
For you, what moments solidified you were making a difference?
It’s when people come up and say that they never thought about fostering a child until they heard what Jim and I were doing. White Sox fans have now gone on to foster and even adopt kids so the fact they would have never even done that had we not started this is kind of cool. To know we had an impact on a child’s life because we brought it to someone’s attention is great.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
God, there are so many people out there I would want to have a drink with. I want to say something smart here. Do I want to go fun or interesting?
I’d have to say Robert De Niro. I would definitely like to shoot the breeze with him—Here comes Gordon, now this guy will be all in on the Facebook and Twitter stuff for ya!
GORDON BECKHAM: Couldn’t wait a couple minutes for me?
Gordon, has Paul passed down any words of wisdom in the time you’ve spent with him off the field?
Paul has been very influential in my development and my life. He’s a groomsman in my wedding this fall. He’s really helped me to understand the cerebral part of the game and also in terms of media he’s groomed me to act how he does with handling team questions and all of the stuff like that.
When is the wedding?
Are you going to write your own vows?
Man, I don’t even know!
Do you ever feel it’s tough to stay focused as a young professional athlete in a big city?
It was more of a challenge earlier on in my career but I got over that really quickly. Social media is out there and everything you do is scrutinized so you can’t really be a goof, for lack of a better term, you just have to keep it in. I’m a 26-year-old guy but I’m a 50-year-old on the inside. I’m not really worried about the whole nightlife thing, I used to be but you grow out of it. Unlike Paul I’m on Twitter but I never actually tweet because there are just too many people who don’t do the right thing on there, so what’s the point? It’s not that I don’t care about the fans but the bad outweighs the good. I could tweet, “What a great day it is outside,” and people would say, “Well, yeah it would be a great day if you got a couple of hits!” I just don’t even look anymore. You get tired of it.
What is something that no one tells you comes with a MLB career that you wish you would have been prepared for?
Just the scrutiny. I came up and succeeded early and then I had a couple of years where I really struggled. The amount of scrutiny I got for struggling will give you a tough skin and you’ll learn from that pretty quickly. I didn’t struggle a lot in college so I had to learn how to be good when everyone thought I was bad. I just had to weather the storm.
How do you pass the time on the road?
I’ll play video games with Chris Sale and John Danks. We are big into “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies”. Other nights you just sit around, relax and have a beer or a glass of bourbon. I’m a big bourbon drinker.
Do you want to stay on with the White Sox if you could?
I’d love to. This is where I started. I’d love to be like Pauly and still be here in 10 years. I hope so!
How did you meet your fiancée?
She is the daughter of a former White Sox player and we both grew up in Georgia. We actually lived about 30 minutes apart but never met until we were both here at 23 years old, which is crazy because we had a lot in common and a lot of mutual friends.
The first drink we had was at Green Door Tavern which is just a hole-in-the-wall spot. The first thing I considered an actual date was after a game in 2010 when I took her to dinner at Shaw’s.
Where do you see yourself 15 years down the line?
At that point I hope I’ve had a long career and I have kids and a family. I’ll be taking care of them and watching them grow, that is what’s most important.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
I’d like to have a drink with George W. Bush. That would be cool!
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