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Thome's drive to win remains fierce

Thome's drive to win remains fierce
BALTIMORE - For a night game, Jim Thome generally arrives at the ballpark between 12 and 1 p.m. He gets dressed, then spends 60 to 75 minutes performing a series of exercises to keep his lower back loose and strong.

After that, he will eat lunch, maybe watch film. If the White Sox are at home, he might visit the team's new hydrotherapy room, which features a hot tub, cold tub and underwater treadmill. And then he starts hitting. Not in batting practice. On his own.

Twenty to 30 minutes of drills, depending upon how he feels physically. Whacking soft tosses. Hitting off a tee. Swinging in the batting cage, fastball, curveball, fastball, curveball against White Sox pre-game instructor Kevin Hickey, under the watch of hitting coach Greg Walker and coach Mike Gellinger.

The White Sox's formal batting practice comes later, followed by the game. Wednesday night against the Orioles, Thome hit his 545th home run, moving within three of Mike Schmidt, who ranks 13th all-time. Thursday, he will begin his routine all over again.

Thome turns 39 on Aug. 27, but continues to bat cleanup and serve as the White Sox's full-time designated hitter. He sat down for a question-and-answer session Wednesday, touching on everything from his years in Cleveland to his reputation as a drug-free player to his desire to finally win a World Series.

Q: You're a free agent after this season. Some veteran designated hitters — accomplished players like Frank Thomas — have had trouble finding jobs as they've gotten older. Does that concern you?

A: Sure. It's definitely in your mind. Those guys have been tremendous players. For years, I've looked at Frank as the guy you look up to number-wise whether you're a first baseman or a DH ...

That's why you've got to work extremely hard. You don't ever want to slip. The bottom line is, you don't want to think about that. But you've got to be aware of it and understand that hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world. You've got to get after it and produce.

Q: How do you feel physically compared to five years ago, 10 years ago?

A: A lot different. You ache more. The one thing I've found is that you need to get into a routine, set a routine up that is successful for you.

It's a lot different at 38 than it is at 25 to 30. Your body is different. When I get an off day now, I truly feel the benefits of that. Before, I never needed off days. I was just playing.

Q: How much longer can you play?

Q: The hitter you most admire ...

A: (Albert) Pujols. There are no flaws. He hits homers. He hits for average. Like the ESPN commercial says, he's a machine.

Q: The people you most admire ...

A: My parents.

Q: Favorite teammates ...

A: Wow. That's tough. Not tough, but I don't want to offend anybody.Oh my goodness. Can I name a few?

Q: Sure.

A: I would say Richie Sexson. I would say Travis Fryman. I would say Sandy Alomar Jr., Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko. There are so many. But those guys would be up there.

Q: Six hundred home runs.

A: A dream.

How others view Thome

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen

"He's so professional, so humble. When you have had the career he has had, made all the money he has made and still show respect for your teammates, for your coaches, for baseball, period ... there are not too many people like that.

"I don't say that because he's playing for me. I tell all the kids, look at that guy. How he works. How he goes about his business. He's so humble, he plays like he never did anything in baseball.

"You've got to see him, day in and day out. You've got to see him when he's 0-for-20 with 19 strikeouts. You've got to see him when he hits a home run with the bases loaded to win a game. Same guy. That's not easy. It's not."

First baseman Paul Konerko

"No one does it better than Jim as far as the way he treats people, the way he prepares to play. A lot of times you hear about guys on other teams and how great they are, and then you get to play with 'em and it's not all it's cracked up to be. With Jim, it's all it's cracked up to be.

"He doesn't really ever make any mistakes about how to handle things. He pretty much is the model on how to do it right as a big-league baseball player. I've learned a ton from him. I know everyone else around here has. It's been a privilege, really."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 23, 2009

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