Hall of Famer holds Wolkow in high regard

March 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jim Thome has high regard for .

Having a Hall of Famer who is considered one of the classiest people in Major League Baseball in your corner certainly ranks as a strong endorsement for the White Sox seventh-round over-slot pick in the 2023 Draft. But Thome’s praise for Wolkow goes beyond his 6-foot-7, 239-pound stature and his immense raw ability.

Wolkow, 18, hit this past offseason with Thome’s son, Landon, who as a freshman last year was an integral part of Nazareth Academy's IHSA 3A state championship. So, Thome had the chance to see Wolkow as a strong person as well as a strong player.

“What I loved is how he kind of took my son under his wing,” Thome told MLB.com. “He treated him really good. And that goes such a long way, right?

“Young kids remember and look up to guys like him, and he’s going to be a great player. We are excited to have him, but more importantly he represents himself, the White Sox, and his family in a wonderful way. That’s what I love.”

Wolkow, the No. 15-ranked prospect in the White Sox system, worked out at a place called Bracey’s Performance in Chicago, and invited Landon to come “check it out,” according to Wolkow. They also hit together in a group at Play Ball USA in Mount Prospect, Ill.

Thome's admiration for Wolkow’s bond with his son was how Wolkow felt concerning his work with the man who launched 612 career home runs and currently serves as the White Sox special assistant to the general manager.

“Just an unbelievable human being,” Wolkow said of Thome. “Then on the baseball side, crazy to stand in the cage with someone who has seen that success. He’s a great person. It’s nice to have someone like that in my corner, rooting for me.”

“There’s that revolving door,” said Thome of the mentorship from Wolkow to his son and him to Wolkow. “Then if I can give him some nuggets on hitting or anything about his next phase in the Minor Leagues, that’s what we do. That’s the fun of this ... to watch the progression.”

To compare Wolkow, still fairly fresh out of Downers Grove North High School in Illinois, to Thome, who had 1,699 career RBIs, 1,583 runs scored, 1,747 walks and a .956 OPS, is patently unfair. The same goes for Wolkow being discussed as the next Aaron Judge, but then again, the Draft world often engenders such comparisons.

For now, Wolkow is in Minor League camp and learning his craft. Thome likes Wolkow, the massive left-handed slugging outfielder, and likes Wolkow, the individual, just as much, but understands he needs time to grow.

“He has to go play,” Thome said. “He’s just gotta get the at-bats. He just turned 18, and it’s just great that he’s going to get that opportunity at such a young age to develop and being in pro ball and go through the things now that he will learn as he goes.

“We observe him, we watch him as an organization and then the game plan every day is to help him. That’s the watching aspect of just seeing how he progresses … He’s special. He’s got the size. He’s got the tools.

“As I said, he’s a wonderful kid,” Thome added. “He’s got a great personality and how he treats people is the thing for me that really stands out.”

That working relationship for Wolkow with Thome has just begun. Actually, it began months ago during the offseason.

“Maybe that torch will be passed,” Thome said. “Now the younger generation can follow and watch what [Wolkow] does in his work ethic.”

“At the end of the day, it’s crazy thinking who it is,” Wolkow said. “He’s an amazing person. You hear such good things, and you meet him, and he might be nicer.”