I have to admit it is a bit surreal to drive to Guaranteed Rate Field these days.It isn't my first time driving to the stadium. I spent a lot of mornings in the winter in the gym here working out with Allen Thomas, our director of strength and conditioning. Considering
I have to admit it is a bit surreal to drive to Guaranteed Rate Field these days.
It isn't my first time driving to the stadium. I spent a lot of mornings in the winter in the gym here working out with Allen Thomas, our director of strength and conditioning. Considering all that I've been through with injuries, it was such great motivation to do everything I could to get healthy again.
That's what makes this so special. Now I'm making the same drive, knowing I am going to be in a White Sox uniform for a game in a few hours.
I was a White Sox fan growing up in Wilmette. They had an inspiring group of players. They played the game hard -- especially when you think about 2005, with Ozzie Guillen as manager. Grinder ball is my style of play. I loved Scott Podsednik. He showed that a guy like me who may be a little undersized but with a lot of speed can make a big difference. It was an important year for me in my development.
I always felt like this was possible, but there are so many things you have to accomplish first. Whether it's striving to make the high school team, then college, it's always, "What's the next step?" Now here you are. It's incredible.
I mean, I get the opportunity to work with Aaron Rowand. He's a guy I watched as a kid, and now I'm working with him one on one. There are so many things like that -- I can go on and on.
It's been a long road to get back here. After I got hurt in my first big league game in Detroit in 2016, I basically went 1 1/2 years without playing because of injuries. There were times when you feel like it's a cruel joke to have this great opportunity and then see it slide away from you for an extended period of time.
Anyone who's been injured knows there are some days filled with hope and other days when you're down. Unfortunately, it wasn't the smoothest ride back to full health.
Luckily, I had unwavering support from so many people. That's what allowed me to put in the time and effort to continue to stay the course.
I'll never forget what it was like to play my first game at Guaranteed Rate Field after being called up a couple weeks ago. I hadn't been to the stadium to watch a game in so long. When I went out to get ready, I looked all around. I saw things like the pinwheels in the scoreboard. It definitely brought back so many great memories. It was a pretty surreal moment. I feel so fortunate and just excited to have the opportunity to fight for a team I grew up watching.
That first day, I called my high school coach, Mike Napoleon, to tell him that I was going to be playing. It was 11 in the morning and we were playing at 1:10. He showed up with my hitting coach and pitching coach from New Trier. It was pretty special to have someone who always supported you be there in that moment.
I'm really trying to appreciate everything about being here. At the same time, you have to tell yourself it's just a game. You actually can use that to your advantage. As players, you're always trying to bring yourself back to those times when you were a kid. That's when you're just lost in the competition. Baseball's not necessarily a business. It's about having fun. For me, that's when I'm playing my best, just enjoying the game.
Being able to put on a White Sox uniform takes me back to being a kid and loving the game. I want to embrace those feelings so I can continue to help this team any way I can.
As told to Ed Sherman.
Charlie Tilson is an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox.