ARLINGTON, Texas -- Paul Konerko couldnt help but stumble as he searched for the proper words to describe former White Sox instructor Kevin Hickey, who passed away on May 16.
The White Sox have made a point of keeping the memory of Hickey, the teams pregame instructor since 2004 and a former Sox pitcher, alive this season.
Whether they have paraded his No. 99 uniform to the dugout or repeat his famous phrases in their daily conversations, Hickey very much remains a part of the club.
But Konerko admitted on Sunday this weekend in Texas has been more difficult than most as the White Sox returned to the hotel where Hickey was found unconscious before the teams April 5 workout.
Hickey, who was 56, was later transferred from Dallas to a Chicago hospital, but never awoke from the coma before he perished.
This is where it happened, Konerko said. It seems like just yesterday it happened. But it still, I think for everybody, doesnt seem real. Its still -- it just doesnt seem like that happened. Its obviously tough and still is tough and sometimes things just dont make sense.
Hickey -- a South Side native who pitched for the White Sox from 1981-82 and later for the Baltimore Orioles from 1989-91 -- was a fixture in the clubhouse, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
Pierzynski, who spoke at Hickeys May 22 funeral, described him as an awesome guy. He said it has been difficult not to notice his absence, a task made even more difficult during this series.
Its been weird all year not having him around: not hearing him or seeing him or having him throw to me, Pierzynski said. Its just a different feeling and to come back to where it happened. It was weird to be in the hotel and be in the same clubhouse where we all found out. Its one of those things you try not to think about, but it always pops in your mind. I know Hicks with us every day and hell be with us for a long time and its one of those things youve got to fight through.
Manager Robin Ventura got a reminder of how fresh the scenario still is this weekend when he drove by the hospital where Hickey was first admitted. Ventura hadnt even officially begun his first season as manager before the clubhouse was shocked by the news Hickey had been hospitalized.
That was really the first thing to deal with, Ventura said. Hes not forgotten. Guys still have his jersey up and you hear in conversations throughout the locker room with his sayings.
Konerko said he vividly remembers how players and coaches initially believed Hickey would recover. He remembers the positive attitude that persisted in the clubhouse. But as Hickeys coma continued, players eventually realized he would never recover.
I think every day, everybody was positive that there would be a new development, that hed snap out of it, Konerko said. As it got closer to the end, everybody knew the severity. But at the beginning, especially here, we just thought it was something that would pass and get worked out. Life goes on, but theres not a day that goes by in here where his name doesnt come up somehow, some way or someone says something.
"Hick has a lot of famous quotes that are said a lot in this clubhouse. Sometimes youre saying them and you dont know youre saying it. He definitely left his mark on everyone in here, thats for sure.