A key addition to the team in the off-season, White Sox slugger Jim Thome has been even better than advertised. A prodigious hitter, Thome is known as one of the nicest guys in the league. His 2006 is off to a blazing start too, helping the Sox in their title defense.

The Heckler: You’ve played in both leagues. How would you characterize the difference between them?
Jim Thome: I think in the National League the game is a little quicker. Obviously the pitcher hits and there’s a DH in the other. There’s a lot of different things that come in effect. Over there [in the NL], it seems like you play for 2-1 or 3-2 games. Maybe except for our club. Ozzie is notorious for playing “Ozzie Ball” and bunting guys over and getting them in, but I would say that is the big difference.

TH: Is it more difficult preparing for the game as a DH versus playing the field?
JT: No, it’s part of a routine. Once you get into a routine you really want to stick by it and not get out of it. I think I’ve adjusted very well because from day one I knew what it’s all about and what I had to do, so it’s worked out.

TH: One of the things always said about you is what a nice guy you are. You’re a big star and star players tend to have attitudes and you’re seen as a really down to earth, nice guy. What makes you that way?
JT: I think my family background and growing up in the Midwest. I think it came a lot from my mother and dad, but more so my mother just because she always said, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated and if you can’t give somebody the time, at least be cordial enough to explain.’

TH: You grew up a Cubs fan. Have all your family members switched allegiances? I heard your dad is still a Cubs fan.
JT: I don’t think so. He better not be. I think he’s definitely more of a White Sox fan now, but we did grow up being Cubs fans.

TH: After the 2002 season, when you were a free agent, you had an interest in possibly playing for the Cubs. You had lunch with Jim Hendry. What happened in that situation and did you ask if they had an interest in you?
JT: I think there was a mutual interest. It was just more of a lunch meeting to see where we stood. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. Looking back, it’s kind of fortunate everything worked the way it worked because now I’m here and if you look at our club, we have a tremendous club, so I’m very happy the way it worked out.

TH: Did the Cubs explain to you why they didn’t think it would work out?
JT: To be honest, that’s personal. That was kind of our private meeting and I think it should stay that way.

TH: The Cubs were five outs from the World Series that year. Did you think what might have been if you were playing first?
JT: You can’t. You just can’t look at things that way.

TH: What do you think is your biggest achievement so far in your career and what goals are you still trying to accomplish?
JT: The biggest achievement has been going to the World Series [in 1995 and 1997 with the Indians]. Anytime you have a chance to go to the World Series, it definitely is probably the biggest. The ultimate biggest would be to win it, which I have not done.

heckler editorial staff