Thigpen pitched for the White Sox between 1986 and 1993, including a 1990 season when he set a then big-league record with 57 saves, a mark that stood until 2008, and he was an American League All-Star in 1990. So after spending much of his career in Chicago, returning there only seems natural.
“Obviously I’m excited just to be back in the big leagues,” he said. “It’s a testament to Jerry Reinsdorf and the entire organization how loyal he is. A lot of our guys they come back. He [Reinsdorf] likes having our guys back.”
Not only is the former MSU star returning to the same franchise he made his big-league debut with in August 1986 at Boston, but he’s also working alongside former Sox teammate Robin Ventura, who is in his second season as Chicago’s manager. Ventura led the Pale Hose to an 85-77 record last season as a rookie skipper.
“Robin’s just an awesome individual. The guy is first class all the way. He doesn’t B.S. You know where you stand. He’s laid back but he’s intense,” Thigpen said. “I can’t say enough good things about Robin.”
Some might think his primary duty as bullpen coach is to answer the bullpen phone when it rings and to tell one of his relievers to start warming up. But as this ex-Bulldog attests, his job is a bit more complicated than that.
“Working with [Sox pitching coach] Don Cooper is going to be beneficial. Hopefully I can be beneficial to him,” Thigpen said. “We talk every day. He’s the pitching coach. I’m like a secondary pitching coach in the bullpen. I’m not just answering the phone. I’m actually having some input into what’s going on.”
And even though he’s busy for the bulk of the year with baseball, when he can he still finds time to return to Starkville and maintain his ties to MSU. “I loved my two years there and I go back every so often,” he said. “The town itself has really, really grown. It’s amazing when I go back how much bigger the town looks, how much bigger the school looks. I love going back there and it will always be my second home.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.