07/11/11 6:45 PM ET
Konerko, Quentin familiar with All-Star setting
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Konerko was elected to make a trip back home to Arizona through the American League All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, after being passed over for Boston's Adrian Gonzalez and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. The Chicago captain certainly was deserving even without the fans' immense support and the organization's "PaulStar" campaign.
His first half concluded Sunday with two hits and a run-scoring single, raising his average to .319 and his RBI total to 67. He sports a .390 on-base percentage, a .564 on-base percentage and has generally been the most important bat helping to keep the White Sox in contention in the AL Central.
Now, he's being rewarded with four days in his hometown, in front of the home folks and among the game's best players. This is Konerko's fifth All-Star Game.
"It is [special] for me because I know it is for a lot of my friends and family," he said on Monday at the annual media availability session prior to Tuesday's Midsummer Classic. "That's definitely the best thing about this All-Star Game so far for me. I know certainly the next time an All-Star Game rolls through Arizona, I'll be long gone by then. So it's kind of cool to say in my career, the one time they had it here, it worked out. This is where I live. This is where I'll always live. So it's nice to say that I played in that game that one year."
A good portion of the White Sox first-half success can be attributed to Konerko, 35, who sits 13 homers away from 400 and just 35 hits away from 2,000. He's gone 4-for-7 in his previous four trips to the All-Star Game.
AL STARTING NINE
"He's very mechanically and technically correct with his swing," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. "Add on he's one of the more talented guys with a bat in his hand. You know, years ago I would have to remind Paul how talented he was. It still amazes me to see him hit 100-mph fastballs. He's as good as it gets when it comes to doing that."
As for Quentin, who formerly called Chase Field his home ballpark, his first month featured a .294 average with six home runs and 17 RBIs. By the end of May, Quentin had 13 homers and 36 RBIs. He tailed off somewhat in June, but Quentin still ranks a clear-cut second on the White Sox with his 51 RBIs and 17 homers. He also has been hit by a Major League-high 19 pitches, helping him to a solid .350 on-base percentage.
"To be honest, I wasn't expecting to be here," he said. "I was performing well at the beginning of the year and doing well and helping the team, and as a team, we've had to grind through our first half. We're looking for good things to happen in the second half. I was taken aback. I walked into the clubhouse that day and someone congratulated me, and I had no idea what they were congratulating me about."
Tuesday's game marks Quentin's second All-Star appearance, with his first coming during his 2008 Most Valuable Player-caliber effort.
"You look at the whole body of work in the first half and he was right up there with anybody," said Konerko of Quentin. "The fact of the matter is that he was voted in by the players, so that's the best way in my opinion. That's kind of the nicest way to go because that means the players are looking at it and saying this guy deserves to go."
But as for the location, it's not a big deal to Quentin. He fielded a few questions about returning to the city where he made his Major League debut, but he mostly downplayed the connection.
"I was hurt a significant part of the time I was here," he said. "There's some fond memories of here when I first got called up, my first hit and everything, but at the same time, a homecoming ... I don't feel like I even got a chance to spend a significant amount of time here.
"But I was just fortunate to go someplace with the White Sox to be able to play. I never felt any feelings of, any hard feelings toward the Diamondbacks. It's more about being selected as an All-Star. To accept that honor and to live in it here with all these great players. I was definitely not expecting to be here. To be selected by my peers, that means the world to me. Definitely."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. MLB.com reporter Scott Merkin contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.