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Hall election still sinking in for humble Thome

Popular former White Sox slugger joining 'greatest fraternity in sports'
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome lived a Hall of Fame existence long before he got the official word Jan. 24.

The left-handed slugger posted those sorts of elite numbers on the field, topped off by 612 career homers, 1,699 RBIs and a .956 OPS. His character inside and outside of the clubhouse was unmatched.

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome lived a Hall of Fame existence long before he got the official word Jan. 24.

The left-handed slugger posted those sorts of elite numbers on the field, topped off by 612 career homers, 1,699 RBIs and a .956 OPS. His character inside and outside of the clubhouse was unmatched.

But the honor of joining Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in the 2018 class still holds great meaning for the proud native of Peoria, Ill.

2018 Hall election results | Did You Know? | Coverage

"It's the greatest fraternity in sports," a beaming Thome told reporters during a Thursday news conference at Guaranteed Rate Field. "As a player, you don't ever dream of being in the Hall of Fame. It happens later on, through hard work and longevity and a long process.

"It reflects kids. It reflects moms and dads. It reflects wives. It reflects brothers and sisters, friends and organizational friends. If you work in that organization, the happiness it brings to them as well. And to me, that's the coolest part.

"Yes, I'm very proud to be a Hall of Famer," Thome said. "But I think the best part is how you get to enjoy all of this with those close ones and loved ones."

Video: Thome on his life since being elected to Hall of Fame

Thome will be giving his induction speech July 29 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but in his true humble nature, many others will be with him on stage in spirit. He will be joined by his wife, Andrea, on a Cooperstown orientation trip at the end of next week to get housing in order and get questions concerning matters such as the speech answered.

In the interim, Thome continues to return messages of congratulations arriving some three weeks after the announcement. One of those messages came from Hoffman, simply stating, 'Can you believe this has all happened?'

"I'm still answering text messages, trying to get back to people out of respect to them. It's just been wonderful," Thome said. "It's been a great ride, as I hope the next six months are leading up to it."

There have been numerous significant influences across Thome's 22-year career, from Charlie Manuel to teammates to people he knew dating back to his days in Peoria. Let's not forget his family. Thome has been the same sort of important influence on many players around him, including countless White Sox prospects in his current role as special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn.

Video: Thome thankful for all of HOF support after election

White Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez received special praise from Thome on Thursday, but learning from Thome is not only about his baseball knowledge but also how a Hall of Famer approaches the game.

"I would say hard work and respect, treat people good and at the end of the day, it's who's accountable, and who was there," Thome said. "I want my teammates to know I loved them, but I was ready to play every game. I did everything I could from the minute I woke up to the time I went to bed, preparing to be the best player I could for my organization and my teammates.

"That's what it's about. You have to have the desire and discipline to grind."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox