A.J. Pierzynski

Will A.J. Pierzynski be a big league manager someday? If that happens, he wants to be like Joe Maddon

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AP

Will A.J. Pierzynski be a big league manager someday? If that happens, he wants to be like Joe Maddon

Folks on the South Side generally don’t like it when that team up north gets brought up in a positive light. But don’t get mad at the messenger. Get mad at the guy who once got a Cubs catcher to punch him in the face.

A.J. Pierzynski was back at Guaranteed Rate Field for Thursday’s home opener, and he was lobbed a question (multiple ones, actually) about managing and what kind of skipper he would be. He named a couple of guys he’d like to emulate — including Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

“If I get to a point where I’m ever given the opportunity to do that, you want to try to be a players’ guy, that’s the biggest thing,” Pierzynski said. “You’ve got to have the players trust you. You look at Maddon, different guys that are very successful, (Houston Astros manager A.J.) Hinch and Maddon and those guys, they have the players’ ear, they have the players’ trust.

“The No. 1 job, I truly believe, to be a good manager, especially in today’s world, you’ve got to have the players believe that no matter where you put them or how you put them in and what situation, they’re going to succeed. You’ve got to have communication with them. All you guys who covered me know that I was a guy that if there was a problem I’d go right up to people. That’s the biggest thing is have an open door, let the players have a little bit of say, give them structure but also let them have a say and be able to communicate with them so they know where they stand.”

Being like Maddon isn’t a bad thing, of course. The guy’s got a World Series ring, taken two teams to the Fall Classic and is a period of impressive success with the Cubs, who have advanced to the National League Championship Series in each of his three seasons on the North Side. And his unique managerial style is lauded around the game. Maddon’s relationship with his players, per Pierzynski is something worth emulating.

And Pierzynski wasn’t the only one with kind words about the Cubs’ manager. Hawk Harrelson, starting his last season in the White Sox booth, had good things to say about the skipper whose home park Harrelson has vowed never to set foot in again.

“We’re lucky because in my opinion we have two of the best managers in the game in this city,” Harrelson said. “I’m one of Joe’s biggest fans, and after watching Rick Renteria, I’m one of his biggest fans. He’s the right man in the right place.”

Surely, Harrelson would like to see his good buddy Pierzynski have a more successful managerial career than even Maddon.

“A.J., whatever he wants to do in the game, he’ll be successful in it. He’s always proven that,” Harrelson said. “It’s a different game today than when I played, there’s no question about that. And handling players today is the most important thing. The chemistry has never been bigger than it is today because you’ve got so many different aspects. You’ve got the analytics and the sabremetrics, you’ve got all this other stuff coming in. When he came up, he didn’t have that.”

Pierzynski’s time might eventually come, with recently retired big leaguers the new trend when it comes to skippers. And new New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone provides a very recent example of pulling a skipper from the broadcasting ranks.

If and when the times comes for Pierzynski to sit in the manager’s chair, he can count on having a big fan in Harrelson, who might have to jump his longtime friend above Maddon and Renteria on his list of favorite skippers in baseball.

White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski and Hawk Harrelson on being simultaneously loved and hated

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White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski and Hawk Harrelson on being simultaneously loved and hated

Chuck Garfien sits down with Hawk Harrelson and A.J. Pierzynski in their first interview together to discuss their unique relationship which goes back 25 years to when Pierzynski was in high school and was considered the most hated baseball player in Orlando, Florida. Hawk talks about convincing Ken Williams to sign Pierzynski as a free agent in 2005, the time he wanted to fight Texas Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla after he beaned Pierzynski twice in a game. Harrelson tells the story about playing in a foursome with Michael Jordan, Jim McMahon and Mike Ditka. They also discuss the White Sox rivalry with the Twins in the 2000's, umpire Joe West, arm wrestling, Hawk's autobiography, AJ's plea to get Harrelson in the broadcasting wing in the Hall of Fame, their plan to call a White Sox game together next season, and much more.

Jose Contreras, Tim Raines join A.J. Pierzynski as new White Sox ambassadors

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AP

Jose Contreras, Tim Raines join A.J. Pierzynski as new White Sox ambassadors

The White Sox are welcoming back two more fan favorites.

They added to their growing list of team ambassadors Friday, announcing that Jose Contreras and Tim Raines will be joining A.J. Pierzynski — who made his own announcement Monday at the Winter Meetings — in returning to the organization.

Like Pierzynski, Contreras was a member of the beloved 2005 world championship squad. He teamed with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Orlando Hernandez to form a formidable rotation that season. Contreras posted a 3.61 ERA during the 2005 regular season but was even better in the postseason, turning in a 3.09 ERA in four starts. He pitched into the eighth inning in each of those starts, including a complete-game effort in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, which the White Sox won to clinch the pennant.

All in all, Contreras spent six seasons with the White Sox from 2004 to 2009.

Raines, meanwhile, is a newly enshrined Hall of Famer, inducted earlier this year in honor of his 23-year major league career. He spent five of those seasons on the South Side and holds the franchise record in stolen-base percentage. He swiped 143 bags during his White Sox tenure.

Raines hit 98 doubles, 28 triples and 50 homers in a White Sox uniform.

The addition of this latest trio of ambassadors adds to an already impressive group of former White Sox in that role: Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Mike Huff, Bo Jackson, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Donn Pall, Dan Pasqua and Mike Squires.