Mark Buehrle quietly slipped into retirement after the 2015 season, turning his attention from a 16-year pitching career to spending time with his wife and children on his Missouri farm.
Buehrle knew maybe three or four years earlier where he was headed. He didn’t have the same drive to play, and he missed his family during his three seasons in Toronto.
But after the former White Sox left-hander last pitched on Oct. 4, 2015, with the Blue Jays, he left the public to speculate whether his career was really over.
“I didn’t want all the attention,” Buehrle said. “I’ve always told people I was a young guy that came into the big leagues unknown, kind of snuck into the big leagues. I wanted to sneak my way out.
“That’s why I haven’t said anything. I haven’t talked to anybody. I just kind of let it go. Hopefully one day it just kind of got forgotten and five years down the road, (people said), ‘Where’s that Buehrle guy? Is he still around?’”
His comments, while on a conference call with Sox reporters Friday, were among his first since he left the game.
But he will find it hard to stay under the radar when he returns to Guaranteed Rate Field this summer. The Sox announced Thursday they will retire Buehrle’s No. 56 on June 24 to honor the player who pitched a no-hitter and a perfect game and won a World Series while in a Sox uniform.
Buehrle said he was “blown away” by the news but couldn’t quite wrap his head around his retired jersey hanging alongside Frank Thomas’.Sox pitching coach Don Cooper on Mark Buehrle: 'He taught me a lot'
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper recalls his favorite memories of Mark Buehrle's career on Feb. 23, 2017, at spring training in Glendale, Ariz. The team will retire Buehrle's number on June 24. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper recalls his favorite memories of Mark Buehrle's career on Feb. 23, 2017, at spring training in Glendale, Ariz. The team will retire Buehrle's number on June 24. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)See more videos
“I’m going to be up there with all those numbers, and it doesn’t seem right, like that’s where I belong,” Buehrle said. “I just did what I was supposed to do, had fun with it and lived every day like it was my last. Now my number is going to be up there. I haven’t really soaked everything in. It just doesn’t make sense right now.”
Buehrle said he discussed the list of teammates who might attend the ceremony, but he joked with senior vice president Brooks Boyer he didn’t want too many — because then there would be more people to address.
“Right now I’m just trying to not pass out from thinking I’ve got to get up there and do a speech,” Buehrle said. “You think I’m joking. I’m not.”
Of course, he’ll be happy to see his former teammates.
Spending time with the guys in the clubhouse and going to dinner with them after road games are among the things he misses the most about his playing days.
Sox executive vice president Ken Williams asked Buehrle to join the team at spring training this year as a guest, but he declined because one of his dogs was ill.
“I thought as the season started I would miss it more and say, ‘What am I doing?’” Buehrle said. “But I haven’t missed playing one bit, being so busy at home. The family is keeping me busy running around, so I really don’t have much time to sit down and watch a game.”
For one day in June, he’ll have that opportunity again.
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