Aaron Rowand feels like he's home again with White Sox

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Former White Sox Aaron Rowand works with minor league catcher Nick Parent.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Rowand could be sleeping in, playing golf and enjoying the good baseball retirement life – and he is to some extent – but here he is at Camelback Ranch, wearing a White Sox uniform again as a minor league instructor during spring training.

“Being part of this organization doing what I’m doing right now, it feels like you’re home,’’ Rowand said Monday morning before making his way to the batting cages to work with Sox prospects.

A fan favorite because of his aggressive, wall-crashing style of play in center field and an important piece on the 2005 World Series championship team, Rowand – a first-round White Sox draft pick (35th overall) in 1998, remembers what it was like coming up as a kid. So he enjoys being on the field and giving something back to the game.

“It’s nice being able to pass on some information to the generation coming up,’’ he said. “There are a lot of good, talented kids here in camp so it’s been fun.’’

At 37, Rowand looks a lot like he did when he played for the Sox, except for the clean uniform. His day consists of early morning meetings, time at the batting cages, outfield, infield and baserunning fundamentals on the field, batting practice and a scrimmage. Not all former players can communicate what they’ve learned in teacher mode, but communication was never an issue for Rowand – a media favorite as well when he played. And he believes he learned the right way when he came up, so that helps.

“I was lucky. I had a lot of great coaches, from Gary Pettis in the outfield to Gregg Ritchie and Greg Walker on the hitting side, and so it’s nice to pass on the things that I learn,’’ he said.

Like an ’85 Chicago Bear, Rowand will always have name recognition and something of a love affair with the Sox fan base. He hit .310 with 24 homers and 69 in 2004, and .270 with 13 homers, 30 doubles and 69 RBI in 2005. The Sox dealt him to the Phillies the following winter as part of the Jim Thome trade, and he went on to play six more seasons, playing in the World Series with the Giants in 2010.

The Sox will always be special, though. To Rowand, who also served as a guest minor league instructor with the Phillies earlier this spring, the Sox organization feels like flesh and blood. He attended SoxFest for the second time in three years this winter and had a blast hanging out with former teammates.

“This is a family,’’ he said. “This organization, which I spent eight years with, is family, so it’s easy to reconnect here.

“All the guys that were here when I was coming up, most of them are still here.’’

Rowand’s not quite ready for full-time work in baseball, but it’s something he might consider down the road.

“I might get back into it coaching later on but right now I have my 10- and 13-year old children at home [in California],’’ he said. “For the next couple of years at least. I’m trying to catch up with them for lost time when they were younger in their childhood, so I’m being a dad right now, helping out here when I can and maybe later on I’ll get back into it.

“I enjoy helping these kids trying to make it to the big leagues.’’

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