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Big Hurt rejoins White Sox as ambassador

Big Hurt rejoins White Sox as ambassador

CHICAGO -- There was a time back around four years ago when it didn't look as if Frank Thomas' road back to the White Sox would be easily traveled once he retired.

Yes, Thomas stands out as certainly the best hitter and arguably the best player ever to suit up on the South Side of Chicago. But in response to a somewhat controversial exit interview done by Thomas during Spring Training 2006, general manager Ken Williams let loose with a verbal barrage toward his one-time designated hitter including the phrase, "He better stay out of White Sox business," in the infamous diatribe.

Apparently, time really does heal all wounds.

Williams and Thomas settled their differences during the 2009 season, when Thomas first started doing local television work. And on Tuesday, the Big Hurt officially re-joined the White Sox as a team ambassador.

In that role, Thomas will make appearances on behalf of the organization and serve as a team representative in the community and throughout baseball. Thomas will continue on as a studio analyst for White Sox games on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

As for going down that bumpy road to come back, Thomas explained Tuesday with a broad smile how he never had a doubt concerning his return.

"It's a part of being a great player," Thomas said. "I spent 16 long years here, and unfortunately, the partings are never nice.

"You've seen some of the greatest players in all of sports, but eventually I thought I'd be back here in some capacity. It just takes time.

"Things have worked out. Kenny and I have sat down and talked and had a good time talking out things and we understand each other," Thomas said. "I'm just happy to be a part of this because, in my heart, I feel that I've earned this."

When Thomas announced his retirement in February of this year, reported first on MLB.com, the White Sox immediately announced a "Frank Thomas Day" on Aug. 29, when his uniform No. 35 will be retired during a pregame ceremony at U.S. Cellular Field. Thomas joins Nellie Fox (No. 2), Harold Baines (No. 3), Luke Appling (No. 4), Minnie Minoso (No. 9), Luis Aparicio (No. 11), Ted Lyons (No. 16), Billy Pierce (No. 19), Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and Carlton Fisk (No. 72) on the list of White Sox retired jerseys.

Aparicio's number was un-retired for the 2010 campaign, with Aparicio's permission, for Omar Vizquel to wear. Thomas also will join Fisk, Ron Kittle, Bill Melton, Minoso and Bill 'Moose' Skowron as part of the White Sox Speakers Bureau.

"I've been in this organization for so long. Everything went so fast," Thomas said. "I tell people I look at it now, it's like yesterday, and I'm walking through this dugout right here, looking ready for my next at-bat. But when it's over, it's good to be acknowledged by the organization. We've done a lot of talking over the past year. Things are great now."

"You can't think of the White Sox without thinking of Frank," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Thomas' latest honor.

During his 18 big league seasons with the White Sox (1990-2005), Oakland (2006, '08) and Toronto (2007-08), Thomas batted .301 with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs, 1,494 runs scored, 1,667 walks and 495 doubles. The two-time American League Most Valuable Player holds double-digit White Sox club records, and he joins Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as one of just four players to have a .300 average, with 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks in his career.

Ott, Ruth and Williams all are Hall of Famers. It's one of the few honors left for Thomas' illustrious career, which surely would even top his rewarding return to the White Sox.

"Oh man, it's a long, long time away, but I'll be honored again," said Thomas, who would be eligible for Hall of Fame election in 2014. "That would really complete my life.

"I'm hoping that really happens, because it's meant a lot to me. It's something, playing this game and seeing all the great players, I definitely would like to be one of those guys."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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