Konerko to soak in Fenway one last time

Paul Konerko's farewell tour hits Boston this week and the Chicago White Sox captain believes he might start the process of getting some closure with his pending retirement approaching.

To this point, Konerko has remained relatively unaffected as he begins to see certain ballparks for the last time. The American League parks he has already played in for the last time include the homes of the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.

Heading to Boston's Fenway Park will be much different since Konerko is a New Englander by birth, before moving with his family to the Phoenix area where he completed high school and continues to make his residence.

Most of Konerko's family still lives in New England, especially Rhode Island, and his wife and children were already visiting family there before the White Sox arrived in Boston on Sunday evening.

"Fenway is a cool place," Konerko said. "That was one of the first places I went as a kid. I went to Yankee Stadium first, but when I was maybe 12 or 13, I went to Fenway. I think it will be one of the stadiums I definitely take note of that, 'Hey, this is the last time you'll play here; the last time you'll be here as a player.' "

The only other time Konerko seemed affected by making a final visit to a ballpark was in early May when the White Sox traveled across town for a brief two-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were even the first team to acknowledge Konerko's pending retirement, presenting him with a No. 14 (his uniform number) from the famed Wrigley Field scoreboard in center field. Konerko said afterward that he genuinely appreciated the gesture and said the memento will definitely end up being displayed somewhere.

While Konerko expects an unknown number of family members to attend each game of the four-game series with the Red Sox, he admits that it won't be a crush of people like it may have been in his younger days.

As Konerko goes through the process of having his immediate family travel with him to key cities for the last time, he continues to balance family time with what he needs to be doing at the ballpark.

"For me, the framework of the day of getting ready to play, whatever my role is that day, that to me is always in the forefront," he said. "I don't want anything to change that because that's what I came back here for, to do it right. I will be more proud if I do that. I don't want it to become where the game that day is the secondary thing because I'm sightseeing and doing this and that. I want to enjoy it, but it's always about the game and getting ready. I don't want to change that."

If there have been any surprises for Konerko on his farewell tour, it has been the number of coaches and players that have approached him this season.

"That's probably been the best part or the most unexpected cool part is that I have had a lot of people go out of their way to come up for like two minutes and tell me their feelings, or to say 'Hey man, I appreciate how you did it,'" Konerko said. "And it's people I don't even know, I haven't even spoke to before that would go out of their way to speak to me. That makes you feel good."

For Konerko it's validation that if you have the utmost respect for your teammates, it will turn into respect from people around the league.

Perhaps it's fitting that the game that Konerko will likely start in the upcoming series is the final one of the four Thursday. The Red Sox will have left-hander Jon Lester on the mound, somebody that Konerko has hit well in his career.

Whether or not the Red Sox will recognize the departing Konerko is unknown, but the series will still feel special to him either way. He knows that there will be more New England days in his future, even though he has no intention of moving from his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.

"I don't really get back to the East Coast to see my family," Konerko said. "Because of our schedule, the last thing I feel like doing in the wintertime is going all the way back there. It gets tough to travel. When I'm done playing I feel like I'll head back there more to spend time with family, things I haven't done over the years because there's just too much going on at home.

"But as far as the play, I don't know until I get there how it will hit me, but I'm guessing it will resonate a little more than maybe other stadiums would, not to downplay Texas or a place like there where there is no connection. It will have a little bit more feeling than that I would imagine."