Onetime NIU student Gene Lamont had a lot to be thankful for over this past Thanksgiving.
Lamont, who attended NIU during the fall semesters of 1965 and 1966, was named the 34th manager of the Chicago White Sox at a Comiskey Park press conference last Tuesday.
Immediately following the announcement of a two-year contract, the 44-year-old Lamont jumped on the expressway and headed west to his hometown of Kirkland—which is about 17 miles northwest of DeKalb.
Various citizens of the 1,200-people community, family and members of the media eagerly anticipated Lamont’s arrival at Gene Sparrow’s (brother of DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow) Kirkland home.
The Hiawatha-Kirkland graduate showed up at about 6:30 p.m. and was greeted with a warm round of applause and congratulations from everyone. Lamont expressed his gratitude and noted that the first hometown face he saw was none other than a Kirkland police officer.
“It was my fault,” a red-faced Lamont admitted. “I was just driving a little fast. He just gave me a reprieve, I guess you could say.”
Lamont, who has coached third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates since Jim Leyland took over the managing duties, admitted his excitement.
“It’s hard to explain in words how I really feel,” Lamont said. “I don’t know the word that means as happy as you can be, but that’s how happy I am.”
The ironic part of Lamont’s selection was that the standout athlete—in baseball, football, and basketball—grew up rooting for the team on the Northside.
“My dad made me a Cubs fan, so I’m not going to lie,” Lamont said. “I didn’t hate the White Sox, but I was a Cub fan.”
One aspect of the job that Lamont finds especially intriguing is the fact that the White Sox are already contenders.
“This team really looks like if you add a player or two, they have a chance to really contend,” Lamont said.
The new skipper added that he had an opportunity to meet a couple of the team members while in Chicago.
“I saw Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas today and they are both just awesome, physical specimens,” Lamont said. “They have a lot of great young players. It’s already a pretty good team.
“This whole thing is almost like a dream—and it’s come true.”