In the same city where Rey Mysterio and CM Punk won title gold, former WCW Superstar and current Chicago White Sox Strength and Conditioning coach Dale Torborg commissioned a championship of his own. The players in the White Sox organization hit the gym each day with the special incentive that their training may be rewarded with the coach’s WWE-inspired flair, a prize held in the utmost esteem inside the clubhouse.
“One of the coolest things for me was one of our players, when he received the title, actually cried,” Torborg told WWE.com. “He called his mom and told her, ‘I did it. I told you that I would do it, and I did it.’ ”
Torborg joined the White Sox in 2004, after stints with the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins. Before making the jump to MLB, though, Torborg was best known as The Kiss Demon in WCW. He has incorporated a slice of sports-entertainment into the White Sox organization’s training regimen, as he and his strength and conditioning staff award WWE-inspired custom titles to recognize improvement on the field and in the gym. It’s an award that minor-league prospects at all of the White Sox’s affiliates crave for, and adds another caveat to the trend of professional sports teams to use title gold.
Torborg boasts, though, that he and catcher A.J. Pierzynski started the trend years ago by presenting a title to the MVP of every game.
“We actually were the first ones to start bringing the wrestling titles into a different sports arena,” Torborg said. “Then it went to Johnny Damon with the [New York] Yankees, and they did the same thing. And then you started seeing the title in the NBA and the NFL.”
Torborg introduced the titles roughly eight years ago. At first, he took the base design for WWE’s series of titles — the ECW, Intercontinental and United States Titles to name a few — and superimposed the White Sox’s interlocking “SOX” cap logo. A few years later, he decided to reach out to a company that designed replica titles with a different flair.
The current design features Chicago’s strength and training insignia, comprised of the cap logo with a set of barbells behind it, on either white or black leather. The white leather titles go to the overall hardest working player, the hardest working position player and the hardest working pitcher. The black title is reserved for “tweeners,” or players who have bounced between affiliates.
This season, Torborg added another element by awarding an injured player a wrestling action figure. Of course, there are also the T-shirts that come with the titles.
“It’s the only shirt that you’re allowed to work out in within the weight room,” Torborg said. “You actually get to show off the guns a little bit in that shirt and that’s the only one you can wear that has the sleeves cut off.”
Torborg and staff distribute the shirts, which equal membership in the “Hardcore Crew,” in a ritual of sorts, as the staff and the player cut the sleeves off together.
Take into account the following in the White Sox organization — catcher Pierzynski texted Jerry “The King” Lawler to wish him a speedy recovery on behalf of the team — it’s no surprise that players tend to go a little overboard when it comes to sports-entertainment.
“One time, we had a guy use smoke bombs and had the announcer on the field announce when he was coming out, and they did a whole wrestling shtick and presented the title,” the former Demon said. “The news crew was there to cover it. It’s become a very big deal.”
From Rasheed Wallace carrying the World Heavyweight Title in 2004 after the Detroit Pistons won the NBA Championship to Aaron Rodgers celebrating with the World Title after winning Super Bowl XLV, sports teams have adopted title gold as often as possible.
The title craze is no fluke, though. Torborg thinks the reason is partly because of what the titles symbolize and their sheer size. Though a championship ring represents the goal of every professional athlete, it’s much harder to show off when compared to a championship like the White Sox titles.
“Everything goes back to WWE, I think,” Torborg said. “When you look and see, they’re the innovators. The title signifies that you’re the best in the world. And they’re the coolest-looking things that you can get.”