CHICAGO | The caller, a life-long baseball fan, sounded confused: "What the heck happened to Ron Kittle? He still live around here?"
Rest easy, partner. The former White Sox slugger and 1983 American League rookie of the year now resides in Mokena, Ill. -- 32 miles from U.S Cellular Field -- and is still a regular visitor to Northwest Indiana.
Feel better now?
The Wirt grad continues working for the Sox as a goodwill ambassador at home games, rubbing elbows with the fans, making special appearances throughout Chicagoland, doing promotional work for team sponsors Miller Lite and Comcast Xfinity, and all while staying active with his Indiana Sports Charities.
"Kitty" remains one of the most popular White Sox players ever, as accessible as your ATM, fun-loving and brutally candid when needed.
Fans still treat him like royalty.
"They gave me a Burger King crown so I spray painted it and wear that out on occasions," he said, jokingly.
Kittle loves it. The public loves it. He is Chicago baseball, after all. His roof-top shots at old Comiskey Park -- "pigeon killers," Greg Walker called them -- are still talked about by Sox fans and team personnel.
Yes, Ronald Dale Kittle is out there somewhere at this moment, pushing the White Sox brand.
"I still do the corporate visits at the ballpark, visit the kids in the hospital, throw out first pitches for some Little Leagues," he said. "I've already got like 30 requests to throw out first pitches. I would love to do them all, but you can't.
"The one thing I don't have is t-i-m-e."
I've often wondered why Kittle never wound up in the TV or radio booth, calling games, critiquing players and the front office when needed, adding some biting humor, offering insight, telling stories.
Steve Stone, Ed Farmer and Hawk Harrelson all do that, I know, but at times they seem to be searching while Kittle is a natural talker.
"I was interviewed for the (radio) job years ago and they gave it to Chris Singleton," Kittle said. "I heard he didn't even go in for the audition but I went in three times for it. I would definitely add some charisma and excitement to it.
"They might be afraid I'd hurt someone's feelings. Society today is not designed to be honest; they want somebody to sugar-coat something and I'm not into sugar-coating. You gotta have tough skin."
Singleton worked with Farmer from 2006 to 2007, then left for ESPN in March of 2008. Stone replaced him and later joined Harrelson in the TV booth as the boring Darrin Jackson became Farmer's new partner.
"When I'm driving around and I hear the radio going on and it becomes stagnant, I turn music on. I don't need to listen to excuses," Kittle said.
Kittle said Don Drysdale and Harrelson, in their prime with the White Sox, were heavyweights in the booth.
"But when your team's playing bad, it's hard to go out there and have charisma," he added.
We also talked about teams needing translators as a growing number of players come from other countries now. They take their millions and return home after the season without forming any bond with the fan base.
Used to be, all we needed was a notepad and pen for interviews. Now, it requires Rosetta Stone tapes to have a conversation.
Kittle says he still loves baseball regardless.
I envy him.