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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, July 29, 2000

White Sox a big
hit with Lum

IF it's Wednesday, it must be Winston-Salem, N.C. Sure enough, that's where Mike Lum was that day. The former Roosevelt High star is frequently on the road as hitting coordinator for the Chicago White Sox.

Atlanta is home for the former Braves and Cincinnati Reds outfielder. But home is also any batting cage for Lum, a 15-year major-league veteran.

I wanted to catch up with Lum, not because of the University of Hawaii baseball coaching situation with the retirement of coach Les Murakami after the 2001 season.

Lum's not interested in the job, although he admits he has fantasized about it. More on that later.

I wanted to talk to him because he's with the White Sox organization and right now the Chisox are baseball's feel-good story of the year.

The surprising White Sox own the best record in the American League.

"I'm not really surprised that they are doing well. But I am surprised at how well they are continuing to play well," Lum said.

"Everyone's waiting for the shoe and the White Sox to drop after the All-Star break. But I don't think they will."

Lum admits that the White Sox took a big gamble in stressing a youth movement and cutting the budget by getting rid of high-salaried players.

"Except for Frank Thomas. Frank will always be Frank," he said.

It's definitely paying off for the White Sox, who are playing with verve and seemingly no pressure.

Now in his 11th season with the White Sox, Lum has worked with all of the youngsters who have worked their way up through the team's minor league ranks to be on the big club today -- Mark Johnson, Ray Durham, Magglio Ordonez, Jeff Abbott and Greg Norton.

Thomas, a pure hitter, never dawdled in the minors and never needed any instruction in hitting, according to Lum.

Durham's a good example of how Lum's hitting system has paid off.

"I got him switch-hitting in instructional league because he had a quick bat and had good speed," Lum said.

AS the Chisox' hitting coordinator, Lum works with the hitting coaches of the organization's six minor league teams -- Charlotte, Birmingham, Winston-Salem, Burlington (Iowa) and rookie-league teams Bristol and Tucson, which play three-month half seasons after the June draft.

"We were the first organization to have a hitting program, which I started in 1990. Now, every team has it," said Lum, who had been a hitting coach for the Kansas City Royals before rejoining the White Sox organization.

Despite traveling a lot, Lum says his job's not tiring.

"I work two weeks and take a week off," he said. "And it gives me enough frequent flier miles to get back to Hawaii during the off-season."

Regarding the UH coaching job, Lum feels the school couldn't pay him enough to quit what he's doing right now.

"I've been in professional baseball, what, 37 years now? But I have fantasized if I got the job. The first thing I would do is get a pitching coach and a hitting coach. But I know UH couldn't pay us enough."

Lum thinks he can put up with the politics that go with the job.

"But you know what would keep me from applying for the job? The ping of aluminum bats would drive me crazy."

As a hitting instructor, Lum is naturally partial to high-scoring games. He thinks the fans like it, too.

"There's never too much hitting. It keeps my job going."

Still, Lum's a baseball purist. He dislikes the designated-hitter rule.

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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