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638 Days: My Return to Guaranteed Rate Field

by Joe Ruffalo

While their record may not reflect it, I will always look back fondly at the 2019 Chicago White Sox season.

From watching Pito’s walk-off homer in game two of the July 3rd doubleheader to pounding cold beers with friends on the right field patio, several memories were made throughout the team’s homestands at Guaranteed Rate Field. By September 7th, however, I had seen enough for the year after watching Shohei Ohtani shell Dylan Covey for five of the Halos’ eight runs during my tenth game of the season. With the Sox nearly 30 games out of first in the division, playoff hopes were lost, and I decided to leave the stadium early as another year dwindled away in disappointment. Had I known that it would be the last time in nearly two years that I’d step foot in the ballpark again, I would have savored it till the very last out.

But reality hit with a vengeance in 2020, and the pandemic washed away any sign of normalcy while managing to jeopardize the entire MLB season.

Between endless negotiation talks and the countless hurdles of trying to safely and strategically hold an abbreviated season, the idea of playing started feeling less and less probable. No matter the circumstance, however, baseball has always found a way to prevail through our nation’s darkest hours. Thankfully, after months of turmoil and uncertainty, the 60-game sprint provided a glimmer of hope in what most certainly felt like a lost year. And for an organization in the midst of a twelve-year playoff drought, it was desperately needed by the fanbase. Despite the South Siders being first round exits against the Oakland Athletics, watching this talented young core play in 2020 was healing for a multitude of reasons, and it only amplified the promise for the coming year.

In what has been a tumultuous first half, the banged-up 2021 Chicago White Sox continue to soldier on.

Even after losing several key assets in Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, and Nick Madrigal, the team has managed to claw their way back to the top of the AL Central. Through both excitement and heartbreak, the Sox have displayed resilience early on, proving that no setback is strong enough to dampen their fighting spirit. Regardless of their weak links, this group has come a long way from the days of Dylan Covey. The rebuild has been years in the making, but greatness is now within reach. Sox fans know it—everyone does. It’s why the energy at 35th & Shields is the most electric that it’s been in (what feels like) an eternity.

A lot has changed in those 638 days since I last stepped foot into Guaranteed Rate Field.

As I waited in line at Gate 3 preparing to make my return on June 6th, 2021, I reflected heavily on the impact that this game and organization have both had on my life. I thought about the countless years of going to the park early enough just to have an up-close glimpse at my childhood heroes; the adrenaline rush from snagging a batting practice baseball or getting an autograph. By the time I made my way through security, up the escalator, and onto the main concourse, it all came flooding back. The overwhelming smell of grilled onions and Modelo—the spirited sound of Gene Honda’s voice announcing the starting lineup. And yes, even the sight of the ever-dreadful wave as it made its way around each section of the ballpark. I missed it all, and in that moment, I vowed to never take it for granted again.

This is home – it’s where I’ve always belonged.


All photos were captured during the Chicago White Sox 3-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on June 6th, 2021.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson shares a laugh with manager Tony La Russa prior to the team’s June 6th matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease prepares to take the hill against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
Making his 2021 season debut, White Sox outfielder Adam Engel sprints to first base during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodón makes a young fan’s day following a throwing session at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
Chicago White Sox slugger Yermín Mercedes makes contact at the plate during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox Pitching Coach Ethan Katz plays catch with pitchers prior to the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson makes a play to first base during the team’s matchup against the Detroit Tigers on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn signs autographs for fans following a bullpen session at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox manager Tony La Russa says hello from the dugout prior to the start of the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada makes contact during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel signs autographs for fans before leaving the bullpen at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal hangs in the dugout prior to the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton legs out a stand-up triple in the 2nd inning of the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
Injured White Sox outfielder Billy Hamilton provides energy from the bench during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodón works on his pitches prior to the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox relief pitcher Aaron Bummer struck out two over one inning during the team’s matchup against the Detroit Tigers on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn loads up at the plate during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal makes contact during the team’s matchup against the Detroit Tigers on June 6th, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox outfielder Adam Engel tips his cap after making his 2021 season debut, in which he robbed Niko Goodrum of a home run during the 5th inning of the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
Fired-up White Sox closer Liam Hendriks strikes out Nomar Mazara to record his 15th save of the season during the team’s June 6th matchup against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)
White Sox skipper Tony La Russa tips his cap to fans at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 6th after securing career win number 2,764, passing John McGraw for 2nd most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of Joe Ruffalo/@jruff96)

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