Rick Hahn doesn’t have to sit down for breakfast with the locals at a Bridgeport diner to know what aggravated White Sox fans have endured since he became the organization’s general manager.
All he has to do is sit down over a bowl of cereal with his kids at home.
“I got an 11-year-old,’’ Hahn, with a wince, said at SoxFest this weekend. “When the Cubs were up 6-2 in Game 7, he was so upset he couldn’t go to sleep. All he wanted to talk to me about was, ‘When are the White Sox going to be back in the playoffs and how?’ So I’ve got to answer questions in my own house that aren’t so easy.”
For the first time in a while, the Sox are taking the difficult route to building a winner, eschewing patchwork fixes with an overhaul that will, if successful, likely take a minimum of three years. Hahn warned fans at SoxFest it could take more, saying a typical plan takes five.
As tough as four consecutive losing seasons and no postseason appearances since Hahn’s 11-year-old was a toddler in 2008 are, the majority of fans at SoxFest confirmed to the organization that they are willing to wait through the process that began with the unpleasant parting of Chris Sale, not to mention Adam Eaton. More tough goodbyes are in the works.
“I absolutely approve the rebuild,’’ said Kevin Pittman, 24, of Lansing, who attended all three days of SoxFest with his father. “We kept trying to add pieces year after year we thought would get us over the top and into the playoffs, and it never happened. It was time to go a different route.
“We’ve seen the full rebuild work and start to work for the Cubs and Astros. Now it’s our turn to give it a shot.’’
Pittman said he attends 20 to 25 games a year and plans to attend the same this season even though the Sox will be worse on paper than their 78-84 team last season.
“Trust the process,’’ he said.
That could be a slogan for Sox vice president of marketing and sales Brooks Boyer.
Mokena’s Dean Reszel, a fan since the early 1960s who said he “approves what they are trying to accomplish,” showed his trust by recently buying a seven-game ticket plan. He likely will go to a few more games, including Opening Day.
“My only concern will be smaller crowds, perhaps, during the rebuild,’’ Reszel, 61, said. “And will those fans ever come back even if they become very competitive again?’’
Losing fans is a risk chairman Jerry Reinsdorf must be prepared to take. The Sox, in turn, went all out promoting prospects at SoxFest, where fans seemed eager to meet highly rated youngsters such as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech.
“There is a clear plan and direction for the on-field product, and our fans understand the process,’’ Boyer said. “As Rick has stated, we are closer to the start of the process than the end, but this weekend our fans and media got to meet a number of the young guys, and it created optimism.
“As for ticket sales, I am cautiously optimistic. Our season-ticket renewal is meeting expectations, and our group and premium seating business is pacing as anticipated.’’
Promotions, giveaways, good food, relatively easy access to newly named Guaranteed Rate Field and affordable ticket-pricing options have always carried much of the freight for bringing fans in. That will certainly be the case in 2017.
Nothing brings them in like a winning team, of course. That’s what everyone — from Hahn’s son to the fans in the upper deck — wants.
Patience is the word. It’s going to take time.
“We know there are difficult days ahead,’’ Hahn said.
“However, I think everyone here understands what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.’’