SoxFest provides optimistic buzz

CHICAGO -- Most of the fans choosing to attend SoxFest don't come with an axe to grind or too many complaints to be delivered.

They made their way through the cold and the ice to the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago this weekend to get Chris Sale's autograph. They wanted to hear stories about the 1983 team from Tony La Russa and Greg Luzinski and watch in pride as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede reunited from the 2005 World Series champions.

There were a number of direct and even pointed questions thrown at general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura, ranging from A.J. Pierzynski's departure to the need for another left-handed bat. But fans seemed highly entertained and fairly upbeat about the prospects for 2013.

Look no further than SoxFest '04 to see how good cheer is not always the watchword at this event.

"You know the great thing about our fan base is when they are upset, you know it. They pull no punches," said White Sox senior vice president, sales and marketing Brooks Boyer. "There's no love for the team, quote unquote, when something is bothering them.

"We had a major transaction here: A.J. is an eight-year player, a hero of the World Series, a likeable, fan favorite. But I think what Rick and Robin were able to do is explain why it made sense that he move on. He got a great contract. There's a lot of open communication here and there is a fan base that feels pretty good about the product."

Judging by the fans' reaction this weekend, the White Sox could pack hotel ballrooms simply by having members of the '83 and '05 teams in attendance and telling stories.

"From those two teams, the amazing thing is the personalities that are on there," Boyer said. "I sat through the '83 seminar. They did one each day and I sat through the one [Sunday] and just the stories they tell, when you think of who is up there. With Harold Baines, and Greg Luzinski and Tony LaRussa, Wimpy [Tom Paciorek] and Kitty [Ron Kittle], those are, with the exception of Harold, those are storytellers, they all have this memory of that team.

"It's like it has been documented and they know it and tell it. It's so engaging that their big personalities. I wasn't a White Sox fan in 1983, but just to sit here, it's just amazing.

"Then when the 2005 guys go out there, kids from today know the 2005 guys," Boyer said. "When you can put Crede and Rowand in the same room at any point and time, it's terrific. To add Paul and then the MVP, that panel in a couple of years when it has A.J. and Mark Buehrle on it will be standing room only."

Saturday's '05 session was beyond capacity at the Palmer House's Red Lacquer Room.