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President receives Sox at White House

President receives Sox at White House

WASHINGTON -- The Chicago White Sox have received numerous honors and compliments since winning the team's first World Series championship in 88 years last fall. But as they prepare to head to Spring Training later this week, the White Sox might have had their most enjoyable moment of a very special offseason on Monday afternoon.

President George W. Bush greeted the White Sox in the East Room of the White House, lavishly praising the team for its solid play throughout 2005 and spectacular work during the playoffs and World Series.

"The amazing thing about this team is you went wire to wire, which is really hard to do," Bush said. "You win, 1-0, on Opening Day, and like, they're in your rear-view mirror for the rest of the season. It takes a lot to win 99 games and to remain the lead and not falter. And it says something about the character of the team that you put together and the character of the players."

The ceremony had a few personal moments, as the President has been friends with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for several years. It was Reinsdorf, in fact, who helped Bush get together with partners that led to their eventual purchase of the Texas Rangers. Bush clearly enjoyed congratulating his friend.

"I know how much you love the game, and I know how much you love the Chicago White Sox," Bush said. "And so it had to be a thrilling moment for you and [vice chairman] Eddie [Einhorn] and the owners that were patient for all those years you didn't win. And so I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart, and thank you for your friendship. It's great to see you."

Bush also jokingly played down of the controversy surrounding manager Ozzie Guillen's skipping of the ceremony to remain on vacation with his family.

"If he's a Caribbean guy, taking a look at the weather forecast up here yesterday would have made me not want to come, as well," said Bush with a laugh. "I want to congratulate Ozzie on being a great manager, Manager of the Year, as well as becoming a United States citizen earlier this year. We're proud to have him as an American citizen."

Traveling was a problem this weekend anyway because of the large winter storm that hit the Northeast. The Washington Post reported that approximately eight to 14 inches of snow blanketed the city, which messed up the travel plans of a few of the members of the White Sox party.

The White Sox had 45 people come to the White House, with the weather problems preventing 10 of them from getting to the District.

Those who made it to the White House clearly enjoyed and were touched by the honor of having the President receive them. The White Sox were known last year as a low-key, workmanlike group, something that came through on this visit.

"This certainly was quite a thrill," Reinsdorf said. "It's always just a wonderful feeling to [be here]. Today was sort of special."

General manager Kenny Williams closely echoed Reinsdorf's sentiments, saying how honored he was to be at the White House -- something that could be seen in his face when he spoke and also heard in his voice.

"It's the national epicenter [and this] is a sincere honor," Williams said. "I don't think it should be taken lightly. For me, it's the thrill of a lifetime to be on this stage with the President [and the White Sox]."

Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye presented the President with a White Sox home jersey plus a team jacket at the end of the ceremony. Bush had joked earlier that he had received first-hand reports from his parents during the World Series sweep of Houston.

"I'm not going to tell you who they were rooting for," said Bush with a smile. "But it didn't have much effect on the outcome of the [Series]."

Dye gave the President a little bit of good-natured tweaking on that subject when giving him the jacket.

"And also, we know deep down you probably wish this was a Houston Astros jacket," Dye said with a laugh.

But in talking to Dye after the ceremony, there was no question that the visit meant something to him.

"It was very special," Dye said. "I didn't really know what to expect -- meeting the President was a great honor."

Konerko noted that Bush relaxed everybody by talking and joking with them. And now Chicago can head off to Spring Training later this week completely ready to defend its crown.

"I look at it as the last thing about that team," Konerko said. "[It's] the last piece to the puzzle."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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