CHICAGO -- Frank Thomas had a decision to make as a young talented athlete.
Pursue a career in football or move to the diamond for baseball?
The owner of a .301 career average and 521 homers over 19 years, and a case to be part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, appears to have made the right decision after playing both sports at Auburn.
"It wasn't a popular choice," Thomas said. "Back then, football and basketball still were big in the inner-city. The Boys Club got me involved with baseball.
"We had whiffle ball tourneys. I was a power hitter in whiffle ball, so I decided to play Little League and it all worked out."
Thomas spoke of this baseball choice Saturday morning, before presenting Bo Jackson as the Beacon of Life winner at the Beacon Awards in downtown Chicago as part of this weekend's Civil Rights Game festivities. Giving this award to Jackson meant quite a bit to Thomas, who listed one of the greatest athletes in sports history as a strong influence on his career.
"Growing up down south, really close to Auburn, I got to hear the Bo Jackson stories weekly," Thomas said. "Newspapers, cameras, they were there, and I was 40 minutes away from there.
"Daily about the man, like he was the next coming, and he was. I got to see him in high school. Just an amazing athlete. Then to become a teammate later in baseball, it really made my life and career."
Serving as a presenter was not the only moment of pride Saturday for Thomas, as he was thrilled to recognize those African-American players who came before him. Thomas pointed to a scene from the Jackie Robinson movie, 42, when the character playing opposing manager Ben Chapman objected to Robinson's presence and Robinson chose to peacefully walk away from the harsh comments.
"I know I never could have took that," Thomas said. "We are light years ahead of that now because of these men who paved the way: Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron. It's night and day.
"Racism is part of life period. We all have encountered it, especially if you are a big star. You hear things off the cuff people think are funny. It is what it is. Deal with it and keep life moving. Life is too short to fall back."
Thomas would like Braun to face media at Spring Training
CHICAGO -- In Frank Thomas' estimation, the seventh Civil Rights Game was not the proper locale to discuss Ryan Braun's suspension or his recent statement explaining and apologizing for his PED usage. So, when Thomas was asked about the topic Saturday morning, he declined comment.
Make that, almost declined comment.
"I'll be honest with you. I don't even know why he came out with a statement. No one cares at this point," said Thomas. "Next season, come back and deal with the media stuff. Not right now."
Thomas, who amassed 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs over a 19-year career, has been an outspoken critic of those players who were perceived to have cheated the game.
Pierzynski thinks veteran could have helped Flowers
CHICAGO -- The White Sox chose not to back up Tyler Flowers with a veteran catcher going into the 2013 season, instead opting for switch-hitter Hector Gimenez in reserve, as Flowers took over the starting job from A.J. Pierzynski, who is in town this weekend as the Rangers starting catcher. Pierzynski explained Saturday that having veteran Tom Prince's support during his first year as a starter for the Twins in 2001 made a difference.
"When things went bad, he was there to kind of soften it and say, 'This is what's happening,'" said Pierzynski of Prince. "And unfortunately, for those guys, they didn't really have that.
"Tyler had Hector, who is a good guy but had never really been around [the Major Leagues], and [Josh] Phegley and Tyler now are trying to figure it out together. It's a tough situation and I feel for them.
"Catching is hard for a lot of reasons," Pierzynski said. "Obviously, not only the catching part, but the hitting part. And people nowadays expect everyone to be able to come up and jump right in and not have any kind of difficulties. I think that Tyler, I like Tyler. Tyler and I talked yesterday for a long time. I still think he can be a good player. I still think he can contribute to a Major League team and do some things."
Having the White Sox struggle mightily didn't help the cause for Flowers, who entered Saturday's start hitting .192 with nine homers and 23 RBIs. Flowers also had to replace a popular and successful player in Pierzynski, although Pierzynski wouldn't put himself in such a lofty spot.
"You never want to be the guy replacing the guy. You want to be the guy replacing the guy who was replacing the guy. You know what I mean?" Pierzynski said. "And again, I don't want to put myself in that category, but you look at a guy like Paul [Konerko].
"Whoever comes in and plays first base after Paul is going to have a tough road because Paul did so many good things here. The guy who replaces Mariano Rivera in New York, as soon as he blows his first save, they're going to be like, 'Hey, we need Mariano back. Can we get him out of retirement?'
"No matter how good you are, there is always pressure," Pierzynski said. "Whether you put it on yourself or it's brought in by outside circumstances, it's not an easy job that we have and it's not something for the faint of heart because this game is hard and it's a challenge every day."
Third to first
• Eight of the 25 players on the White Sox active roster did not make the Opening Day roster. John Danks started on the disabled list, Jordan Danks, Jake Petricka, Josh Phegley, David Purcey and Andre Rienzo started in the Minor Leagues and Avisail Garcia (Detroit) and Leury Garcia (Texas) began the season with other big league teams.
• Although the White Sox players in attendance at Saturday's Beacon Awards Luncheon didn't get to talk to Hank Aaron, they seemed to be in awe just to be around the Hall of Famer's presence.
"Growing up, everybody knows that name," said White Sox closer Addison Reed. "I don't think there's anybody that doesn't know about what he did.
"I can't even, when I was little, I never imagined I would be in the same room as him and some of the other big names that were there. It was awesome just being able to see him."
• Four of the last five White Sox top picks in the First-Year Player Draft -- Tim Anderson (2013), Courtney Hawkins (2012), Keenyn Walker (2011) and Jared Mitchell (2009) -- have been African-American players.