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WSI News - News Watch

White Sox tickets on sale now

By John Ralph, MLB.com

CHICAGO -- For die-hard Chicago White Sox fans, the long wait is over.

Winter has finally dissolved into spring, and another summer in the City is waiting on deck.

But that summertime feeling is present now on the South Side, as the White Sox have opened the ticket windows at Comiskey Park and officially placed tickets on sale for all 81 regular-season home games. Likely to be in high demand will be Opening Day, April 12 vs. Baltimore, and the always exciting crosstown series with the Cubs, June 28-30.

Fans have a number of convenient options when purchasing tickets. They can place orders over the Internet at whitesox.com, by phone at 866-SOX GAME, in person at the Comiskey Park box office or at any official tickets.com retail outlets, including Chicagoland Sears and Sears Hardware locations.

"We sell more tickets than ever before on the first day," said Rob Gallas, vice president of marketing and broadcasting. "Many of those come over the Internet. The box office isn't the only place to get tickets and people know that now."

Gallas added that most fans logging on, dialing up or walking in know exactly what they want.

"There's always an urgency to get tickets for Opening Day and the Cubs-Sox series," said Gallas, who said that the ticket sale is later than ever this year to accomodate a switch over from Ticketmaster to tickets.com.

What White Sox fans may not know this year is that when they walk into Comiskey Park for the first time, it will look a whole lot different. For the second straight offseason, the park was given a "retro" facelift with a series of renovations designed to make it more intimate and fan-friendly. This year's alternations include a new, multi-tiered batter's eye in center field, a vertical foul-ball screen behind home plate, improvements to the main concourse and upgrades to the club level.

Sure to garner the most attention will be the new batter's eye. A stark contrast to the all black background of years past, this design will feature nature's green.

The top section of the terraced batter's eye will be a semi-transparent screen, allowing fans to look out onto the field without affecting the vision of the batter. Plants will be grown on the other two levels to provide a green hitting background. The new design also adds space on the center field concourse for additional fan use.

The Comiskey faithful will get its first look at the ballpark and the 2002 White Sox during a 10-game opening homestand, April 12-21, against Baltimore, and Central Division rivals Cleveland and Detroit.

According to manager Jerry Manuel, fans will see a White Sox team play with "enthusiasm and intensity" this season. The Sox failed in their attempt to repeat as division champions in 2001. A disappointing start and a host of critical injuries -- including a season-ending triceps tear for two-time MVP Frank Thomas -- put the White Sox in a deep hole.

But after a 14-29 start, Manuel's club did not throw in the towel. Instead, buoyed by the break-out pitching of 22-year-old Mark Buehrle and surprising contributions from a host of other youngsters, the Sox clawed out of their hole and returned to the thick of the pennant race by midseason. The team closed with a 69-50 mark over the last 119 games.

"The character this team showed last season -- to come back from being 14-29 and play well over .500 baseball the rest of the way -- was amazing," said Ken Williams, entering his second season as White Sox general manager. "Now you add the players who we lost to injury to that mix and we have to be considerably better."

Williams and Manuel are hoping to parlay that positive momentum into a fast start in 2002. Setting the pace will be new leadoff man Kenny Lofton. The six-time All-Star and East Chicago, Ind. native signed with the White Sox as a free agent on Feb. 1, and already has changed the face of the White Sox lineup.

This spring, the 34-year-old Lofton is playing like he's 24, hitting well over .400 and leading the Majors with eight stolen bases.

"With the acquisition of Kenny Lofton, it gives us that one true threat to steal a base at anytime," said Manuel. "He's a tremendous basestealer. With his numbers I think that will probably entice Ray to even run more. In that sense we will probably steal more bases in the years that I've been here."

Could White Sox fans be treated to a return to the "Go-Go Sox" era? Maybe, but the 2002 team is sure to have much more power than it's '59 ancestors. With a healthy "Big Hurt," All-Star Magglio Ordonez, Paul Konerko (who leads the Majors in batting average, hits and RBIs this spring) and Carlos Lee, the Sox have four legitimate 30-home run threats in the lineup. Add Jose Valentin (28 homers in 2001) and Ray Durham (20) and you have a team with a chance to eclipse the club record for home runs in a season (216), set in 2000.

And with home runs flying out of Comiskey Park, White Sox fans will sure to get their share of fireworks this summer -- and not just on Saturday nights.



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