Even Jake Peavy's softspoken Southern drawl can't hide his excitement about the White Sox this season. After two injury-plagued, underachieving years marred by tension between himself and former manager Ozzie Guillen, the right-hander has regained his All-Star form.
With the help of their ace's turnaround, the Sox are in first place in the American League Central Division with 34 games left in the regular season. And while Peavy has been schooling hitters, last week he helped kids prepare for the school year. He visited Staples in the West Loop to accompany children from the Union League Boys & Girls Club of Chicago on a shopping spree.
The guitar-playing Alabama native also spoke with RedEye about redemption, his bread-and-butter subjects in school and how he'd sum up this season in song.
Why was it important for you to come out to this event?
This means so much to me. The kids are near and dear to my heart and these guys are the future. A lot of people don't realize that one in five children live in poverty. For us to come out and here and get these kids some much needed school supplies is fun.
What was back-to-school shopping like for you as a kid?
I don't think it was quite as fun as this, I just remember walking through some aisles of stores with my mom. I was blessed to come from a very middle class family and we always had pretty much everything that we needed.
Did you have a favorite subject in school?
Well, it had to be P.E. because I got to play baseball and sports. But I'm also a big history guy like my dad. From Alabama history to U.S. history and history around the world.
Describe what the 2012 season has been like for you.
It's been refreshing because I've been injured last couple years and for the first nine years of my career I was pretty much injury-free. So to suffer the kind of injury I did in 2010 and then have to rehab almost all of 2011 and try to get back to play but being nowhere close to what you'd want, it was tough. So to come into 2012, my last year under contract, with not having certainty with your baseball career and to be on a good team with unbelievable management and for us to play well and me be a part of, I feel blessed.
There's been a lot of talk about injuries to pitchers this season, and you've been hurt in the past. Is getting hurt something you think about a lot?
No, you can't. As an athlete, you just do everything you can to prevent that. At the end of the day, you can't predict injuries. It's certainly part of the game, and it's an unfortunate one. But when you ask your body to do some of the things we ask it to do for as long as we do it, there's going to be people that break down. When they do, it's not for any rhyme or reason. There's no exact science to preventing it. Some kids like [Nationals pitcher Stephen] Strasburg will be shut down early and some kids will be allowed to throw 220 innings. It just comes down to the organization's philosophy.
Do you have any advice to some of these young pitchers on the staff?
You just got to try to be the best teammate that you can, and anytime someone asks you for advice or you see stuff, the longer you're around the more observant you are. But the game has changed today and some of these kids are ready to play when they come up and they understand the game. We've got guys like Nate Jones and Hector Santiago, these kids are very young, but they're not scared and they know how to get it done.
You mention the clubhouse changing. Has that made some of the crazy rotation issues you've had to deal with easier?
No doubt, the biggest thing I've seen changed is the organizational attitude. It goes from [owner] Jerry [Reinsdorf] to [general manager] Kenny [Williams ] in Spring Training and [manager] Robin [Ventura]—they've asked us to buy into a cohesive, family-like atmosphere. The teams that I played on in San Diego that were most successful, that was there, so I truly feel like guys were ready for it and we bought into it and it's made everything we've encountered this season a little bit easier when you're a tight-knit group.
If you were to write a song about this season, what would it sound like?
It would be a very mellow song, I think, just because our leader [Ventura] is very chilled and relaxed, like a Jack Johnson kind of song. Because that's who our leader is, we went from getting a lot of attention to the team from the last few years to flying under the radar because our leader is such a relaxed type guy, but at the same time a confident leader. So I think it'd be chill, but with a strong bass note, because that's who are leader is and how our team is. Not scared of anything, but not in your face; we just show up to play.
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.
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