Konerko suits up for 15th straight Opening Day
First baseman begins what could be final season on South Side
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko didn't need to hear about Brian Urlacher's somewhat acrimonious departure from the Bears after 13 years at the heart of their defense to understand sports truly is a business at its core.
Yes, the White Sox captain stands as the soul of this organization, a consummate leader and pro both on and off the field. But the 37-year-old Konerko also understands that even if he wants to continue playing after the 2013 season, the White Sox might not have a spot for him.
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"I learned very early in my career, I was traded twice when I was 21 years old. Right off the bat, I learned this is a business and this is you know it's run like a business," Konerko told MLB.com. "So, that was probably a good thing early on.
"Most players get traded two or three times throughout their career. Mine was very early in my career and I kind of got whipped into shape quickly on all that."
Konerko made his 15th consecutive Opening Day start for the White Sox on Monday against the Royals, with the last 13 coming at first base. Before joining the White Sox, as Konerko mentioned, he was traded from the Dodgers to the Reds in exchange for reliever Jeff Shaw on July 4, 1998, and then traded from the Reds to the White Sox for Mike Cameron on Nov. 11, 1998.
There were significant chances for Konerko's White Sox tenure to come to an end along the way, but he agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension after the 2005 World Series championship and a three-year, $37.5 million extension that runs out after this current campaign. General manager Rick Hahn mentioned pregame that a tribute video was run in Konerko's last at-bat of the regular season at U.S. Cellular Field, with the thought of his exit a possibility on one of those occasions.
"I'm sure we'll do that at the end of this season," said Hahn of the return of the tribute video for a player the GM predicted will have his No. 14 retired some day. "We've been down this path twice before, both two years ago and seven years ago.
"Each time we've been able to work something out. It's been a matter at the end of the season of sitting down with Paul and hearing where his thoughts are and our thoughts are and being able to come to some sort of agreement. That's really not on either side's mind at this point and time."
The White Sox first baseman, who went 0-for-4 in the club's 1-0 season-opening win, actually was surprised when first told about Urlacher and the Bears severing ties. But he knows Bears fans will always have a connection with the linebacker because of what he did on the field.
If this was Konerko's final Opening Day with the White Sox, that same sort of connection will be felt forever on the South Side.
"All you are looking for, especially the more you are in one place, is just that everything is handled above board and up front," Konerko said. "As far as how it all works out, the team has a right to run their team how they want to run their team and the players have their rights if something happens where a guy wanted to move to his hometown, you see it all the time, you have to respect that, too.
"So, there's a common respect there for each side of it. I don't think, as a player, I think you can lose sight of that maybe sometimes when you play in one place for a long time. But I don't think that."