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10 minutes with Frank Thomas before his Hall of Fame day

The Big Hurt talks about nerves, discipline and Jose Abreu

Jonathan Daniel

If you watched the Home Run Derby on Monday, you might have noticed the presence of Gilette. Hell, it was called the Gilette Home Run Derby, and the dingers hit on orange "Flexball" baseballs represented donations to the Boys & Girls Club of America and Major League Baseball's RBI program.

Frank Thomas is part of the promotional push, whether getting a shave in the #Flexball Grooming Lounge at Target Field or posing as the eye candy next to a display shelf. This makes him a peer of Luis Aparicio in one respect:

And in 12 days, they'll have another thing in common -- plaques in the Hall of Fame. I spent 10 minutes talking with Thomas about the three C's: Career, Cooperstown, and Cubans.

On the upcoming induction ceremony

"I'm a little nervous. The final hurrah, you know? Taking my place in history, man. I'm excited about it. It'll probably get worse three days before."

"The speech is pretty much written. I'm writing it from the heart, so it'll be easy to deliver. [...] We've got 10 or 12 minutes, that's it."

Are you going to talk until the music plays you off?

"No. [laughs] There's a lot of respect that day. We've got six first-ball Hall of Famers, every one deserves their time, so they really don't want anyone going more than 12 minutes."

On the vote

"The Hall of Fame committee told me to watch [the Baseball Think Factory Hall of Fame Gizmo] because it's been pretty accurate over the last couple years. It's a good judge, a good gauge, but don't buy into it 100 percent."

"You talk yourself into it, and that final day, you get really nervous about things, so I'm just really happy I got in on the first ballot and don't have to worry about it anymore."

On nerves

Asking him about his first batting practice session at Old Comiskey Park...

"No, I wasn't nervous at all. I was never nervous doing that. That came natural. ... [The rest] is not in play. All the media stuff makes a lot of guys nervous, but when it comes down to playing, that's what you're there for."

What about his MLB debut (he called himself "a nervous wreck")?

"That first day, everything happened so fast. Alex [Fernandez] and I were called up right at the last second, so we had to make a flight, we had to get there. [...] I looked up there, and we're facing Teddy Higuera, so that was a veteran with a lot of skill. So you go through the nerves as a young hitter."

On the nickname

"It was all Hawk [Harrelson]. He was saying it a lot, and I had lot of immediate success, and all the fans started calling me that. It was the first nickname that I really liked, so it stuck. It sticks with me, and people see me now, and the first thing they say is, "Big Hurt!"

On Jose Abreu

"I don't have any questions about him. He's a tremendous hitter, tremendous player. He's as advertised. They said he was the best hitter in the world -- that the world hadn't seen yet -- and he's proven it."

"But I think the second half will bring some adjustments for him. I don't think teams are going to feel like they can get him out as easy anymore, when it starts coming down to the playoff run. He's proven himself, and now teams are saying, 'Hey, this guy hits that good.'"

"You've got to pitch him in and out, up and down. You have to move the ball around on him because he's a very good hitter, and he can hit the offspeed stuff. That's what's great about this player, because it starts with being able to handle the curveballs and changeups, and he definitely can do that."

On Dayan Viciedo

"I think he's an over-swinger, but he's got tremendous bat speed -- something you can't teach -- and he uses the whole field. He just needs someone, a mentor or coach, with him every day, tell him every at-bat is the same old thing, and he'll figure it out sooner or later."

"It's discipline. He's got to believe: Same pitch, same approach, every pitch. Once he believes that, you'll start seeing more consistency."

"If he swung 90 percent instead of 110 percent every time, he'd be a much better hitter."

On hitting coaches

"It takes you to get that coach. I had Walt Hriniak, man, for the first seven years of my life. And that just made hitting easier. It was the same stuff every day, with the same approach every day. It became consistency, and I became a clone, and that's why I had so much consistency on a daily basis."

"He was [a hard-ass]. He didn't mess around. It was serious every day. There was no freelancing. It worked for me, because I believe in discipline. I came from a football background and programs, and you had to have discipline. So with Walt, I took everything he said to heart and very serious."

On using Hall clout

"Minnie [Minoso]'s a great guy, but that's out of my control. But I love Minnie like everybody else. He's a great man. [...] If I ever get on a committee, he'll get my vote."