Rowand reminisces about '05 Sox 'brothers'

CHICAGO -- Aaron Rowand never got a victory lap.

Traded less than a month after the 2005 World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a deal for Jim Thome, Rowand, one of the key figures of that Chicago White Sox title team, said he's been to U.S. Cellular Field only once sans uniform.

"During the [2006] ring ceremony," he said Friday. "That's the only time I've been to a game there, not playing."

Rowand last played in the big leagues in 2011 after winning another World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010. He will return to the Cell this summer when his White Sox title team is honored during a July 17-19 weekend series.

He was back in Chicago for SoxFest's celebration of the 2005 outfit, a group that is beloved on the South Side and probably underappreciated in the city. Nine members of the team were slated to attend the convention, and they were milling around the media social event before Friday’s kickoff, joking with each other and talking to reporters.

"Nobody looks like they changed," Rowand said. "Look at [former Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik] Pods. He should still be playing. Even Bobby Jenks. Other than a couple more tattoos, he looks the same. He looks good; he could still probably go out and throw about 98 [mph]."

He's not exaggerating. Podsednik looks as if he's still in playing shape. Jose Contreras looks exactly as he did 10 years ago, or about 45. Tadahito Iguchi came in from Japan, where he still plays. He hit .239 with 10 homers in 109 games for Chiba Lotte last season. Jenks had tattoos down his forearms and appeared very happy.

Several players joined White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and team vice president Kenny Williams on stage for a panel discussion later in the evening.

But the group was missing its colorful leader. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who still lives in Chicago, is currently out of the country, but he told the Chicago Sun-Times he will be in attendance for the team's reunion weekend.

Rowand said he wished Guillen and Paul Konerko were there, among others. Konerko was the last active White Sox from the 2005 team, retiring in 2014 after a yearlong farewell tour. Konerko is having his jersey number retired this summer, to go along with the statue the team presented last season.

"It's hard to believe he was the last one," Rowand said. "He did his duty. He's a wonderful teammate, a great guy and player, and to be able to see him go out the way he did, it made everybody who ever knew the guy happy."

What does he miss the most about Konerko?

"His candor," Rowand said.

Back in 2005, no one expected much from the Sox at this point in the winter, but they shot out of the gate and led throughout that season -- giving White Sox fans a season to remember -- before sweating out a late charge from the Cleveland Indians.

Once they got to the postseason, however, they lost only once, sweeping the Houston Astros in the World Series.

"I've played on some clubs with good people, good chemistry," said Podsednik, who hit a game-winning homer in Game 2 of the World Series. "But nothing like I remember here."

"Everybody cared about each other," Rowand said. "Everybody loved each other, and we had squabbles here and there, but it didn’t matter because we were brothers."