Hawk Harrelson sounds totally at ease about his reduced workload for 2016.
After weighing his options for two years, three significant factors -- his grandchildren at the forefront -- convinced the longtime White Sox play-by-play man to cut his schedule for the upcoming season in half.
A day after his multi-year contract extension and new schedule were announced, Harrelson said Thursday he looks forward to an 81-game slate (78 are on the road) as he splits the play-by-play duties with new hire Jason Benetti. Harrelson said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf asked him two years ago if he had thought about cutting back his schedule.
“I started thinking about it and the more I did the more appealing it became,” Harrelson said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The appeal is easy to understand.
During the baseball season, Harrelson, 74, lives in Granger, Ind., about 100 miles away from U.S. Cellular Field. In order to see his grandsons, ages 12 and 9, Harrelson has made the 200-mile round trip commute every day for the past eight seasons. On an average game night, Harrelson estimates he arrives home between 1:30-2 a.m., and those hours extend past 3 a.m. if a contest goes to extra innings.
Given the team’s losing ways the past three years, including a 2015 campaign that Harrelson has called the most disappointing season he has experienced, the commute has become less palatable.
The team’s 274 losses have taken a toll. Harrelson even told the Sun-Times on Wednesday he could retire after the 2016 season.
“When you’ve had a couple of years like we’ve had in a row, 200 miles a day seems a lot longer,” Harrelson said.
And as Harrelson points out, if he moved to Chicago for baseball season, it would defeat the purpose of living in Indiana, as he wouldn’t be able to see his grandkids on a daily basis. Rather than work with his old schedule, one that often required a quick post-lunch nap before he headed back to the ballpark in the early afternoon, Harrelson opted for a schedule that consists almost entirely of road games. Harrelson works 78 of those 81 contests, skipping an April trip to Toronto. He’ll call the team’s home opener and its two home games against the Cubs in July.
He’s also expected to appear at home games and act as a club ambassador, at times.
Already, Harrelson is eyeing the team’s three lengthy homestands as a chance to go on trips with his family. Both his grandsons play travel baseball.
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“I want to watch them play some baseball and I don’t want to miss that,” Harrelson said. “The biggest thing is the grandkids.”
He also looks forward to hearing Benetti call White Sox games. Harrelson said he spoke Benetti on Wednesday and offered brief advice. He likes what he has heard after a friend sent him Benetti’s highlight reel.
“He seems to really have his head on his shoulders,” Harrelson said. “I told him, ‘I’m only going to tell you one thing and that’s be yourself. You can’t please everybody.’
"I love his delivery. I love his pace. I’m looking forward to him breaking in and he’s got a chance to be a hell of a good announcer. He’s coming to the best organization in the American League.”