CHICAGO - Here was Jim Thome at his best, which for Thome is his norm.
The 2018 Hall of Fame classmate was introduced to a thunderous ovation during a pregame ceremony at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday, honoring one of the game's greats. But Thome started his remarks by choosing to recognize the equally loud round of applause given to Mark Buehrle, his friend and former teammate in attendance.
As great of a player as Thome was, he was and is a better person.
"This is so special," said Thome of Saturday's night honor, including a Thome bobblehead giveaway. "This is my family, this is where I work, this is where we live. I think you all know my relationship with [White Sox board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf]. This is really special.
"It's all very cool, but maybe when it's all done, you sit back and you go, 'Wow. This really happened over the last month and a half.'"
Cleveland, the White Sox opponent on Saturday, will honor Thome next weekend at Progressive Field. He hit 337 of his 612 homers for the Indians, not to mention picking up 937 of his 1,699 RBIs, 1,008 of his 1,747 walks and 18 of his career 19 stolen bases. The Twins also will honor Thome this summer.
Thome launched 134 homers over four seasons with the White Sox, including his 500th in walkoff fashion against the Angels on Sept. 16, 2007, and his mammoth homer to beat the Twins, 1-0, in the Blackout game of 2008 to put the White Sox into the postseason as American League Central champs. Thome's presence continues to strongly resonate within the White Sox fan base.
Maybe it's the fact that Thome now is part of the front office, working as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and forming a special bond with Reinsdorf.
"You would have a tough time trying to find a better boss than Jerry Reinsdorf," Thome said in his speech on Saturday. "I don't know if you ever imagine what's going to happen in the game. That's why I'm always very open to things.
"When I retired, I didn't envision coming back as quick as I did. For me, it was a lot about the respect I have for Jerry, to be honest. And the fact we live here. Buddy [Bell] was here, and being around Rick and [executive vice president Kenny Williams], and the motivation I think is big. So that drove me down from this side, to try to be a part of a championship, just not as a player anymore, but now in the front office."
Then again, Thome seems to click with any and every part of baseball.
His daughter, Lila, performed another rousing rendition of the national anthem on Satuday, just as she did prior to her dad's Hall of Fame enshrinement in Cooperstown. His wife, Andrea, his father, Chuck, and his son, Landon, also were in attendance, as were Buehrle, Hahn, Williams, Reinsdorf, White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and White Sox Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger, who worked with Thome at the Major League level.
A special ATV with a picture of Thome's batting stance on the side was given to Thome, along with a specially designed baseball bat. Thome spoke for 10 minutes before the festivities culminated with him throwing out a ceremonial first pitch to his son in a true baseball moment.
Thome coaches his son's baseball team, but joked how he'll hear Landon's friends talk more about Aaron Judge or Jose Abreu than him as a player. He also works with the players in the White Sox system, giving words of advice for the young individuals fighting their way through the rebuild.
"Trust the journey, trust the everyday process of the roller-coaster ride. There's going to be highs. There's going to be lows," Thome said he tells the players. "Me and [Paul] Konerko used to talk about this: It's a basket.
"You've got a basket, and you put things in that basket -- whether it's what you do individually, whether it's what you do as a team -- and ultimately, we're all in this together. But things you do individually will add up as a team if you're a good teammate. You should put things in the basket, and once the season's almost done, you look up and go, 'You know what? That basket helped us win.'"