Allen shows he made the right choice




CHICAGO—Brandon Allen always had the tools to hit for power. That's why the White Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, persuading him to walk away from football, the sport that is king in Texas.

Allen had the size and speed to play linebacker, if not defensive line, in college. But he opted for a baseball career after playing both sports for Montgomery High, north of Houston. It wasn't clear until recently that he had made the correct decision.

Allen's first three pro seasons were nothing particularly special, but something seemed to click when the White Sox sent the first baseman back to low Class A Kannapolis for a second season in 2007. Both his statistics and his confidence soared and have continued to climb in 2008, with the 22-year-old showing enough in his first three months at high Class A Winston-Salem to jump to Double-A Birmingham.

He quickly put up power numbers that are rarely seen with players based at Regions Park, hitting 14 homers and driving in 31 runs in 41 games for the Barons. He hit .275/.358/.614 with six doubles and two triples in 153 at-bats.

It was the kind of performance turned in by center fielder Chris Young in 2005, and only two years later he delivered 32 home runs for the Diamondbacks.
If you can hit for power in Birmingham, you should be able to hit for power almost anywhere.

"The ball really sticks here," Allen said. "The air's really thick. A lot of times you get hold of one and it's still just a double."

Allen overwhelmed Carolina League pitching, hitting .279/.372/.527. He had 83 strikeouts and 41 walks in 319 at-bats.

The lefty-hitting Allen moves toward the big leagues as the White Sox face an offseason decision on DH Jim Thome ($13 million option for 2009) and have the 32-year-old Paul Konerko heading into the last two years of the five-year extension he received after the championship season in 2005.

CHI-LITES

•  Longtime Birmingham ticket manager Joe Drake, 79, died on the job on Aug. 1, collapsing in the ticket office. He had spent 55 years with the franchise.

•  Outfielder Jordan Danks, a seventh-round pick in this year's draft, joined first-rounder Gordon Beckham in getting off to a fast start with Kannapolis after reaching an agreement at the Aug. 15 deadline. Danks, the brother of White Sox lefty John Danks, hit .351 with two homers in his first nine games as a pro. He played center field at Texas.