So obviously I had the opportunity to meet Jose Abreu recently, first at dinner Monday night and then Tuesday at the ballpark as we announced his signing and introduced him to the media and Sox fans.
I was impressed. While our communication was limited, he smiled easily and his eyes lit up from time to time.
There were about 12 of us at dinner Monday night in a private room at Maestro’s, eating steak, seafood and watching the World Series game on television. Jose followed the game, talking to Alejandro De Aza (he’s still in Chicago awaiting the birth of a child) about swings and plays and letting out a “Wow” as a home run soared over the center field fence.
Yesterday, Jose signed his contract and then walked down to the Conference & Learning Center at U.S. Cellular Field for his press conference. Just outside the door, he took a moment to gather himself before stepping inside to begin a very different life in a very different world.
Known by his childhood nickname of “Pito” (whistle), Jose said he started to play baseball at the age of eight or so with the help of his dad. When he was named to the Cuban National Team, he asked his mother, Daisy, about what number to wear. She suggested “79” because it was unusual, would stand out and people would remember whoever wore it. So Jose will become the first Sox player to wear uniform No. 79 in a regular season game.
Following yesterday’s press conference, we walked Jose out onto the field. Our scoreboard crew ran a cool video showing the great tradition of Cubans and the White Sox (Minnie, Jose Contreras, El Duque, Alexei, Dayan and others) and the ribbon boards around the entire ballpark read “Welcome, Jose Abreu.”
Jose took a walk down the third base line in a brand-new ballpark (for him). He wiped away a tear, I imagine thinking about his familia.
“If my mother could see this …” he told a friend.
My guess is it is a moment Jose and his mom (even though she was only there in spirit) will never forget, which was what Daisy Abreu intended when she chose 79 for her son.
“He cares about this,” offered an observer. “He really cares.”
Better Be Right
One funny moment on Monday night came when Alejandro De Aza remembered an important mission. His pregnant wife, due soon, had asked him to bring her home some chocolate cake.
When the dessert menus arrived at the table, Alejandro had three choices of chocolate cake, as well as the restaurant’s signature butter cake.
Flummoxed, he reached for his cell phone to check with the boss.
“Better not screw this one up,” a fellow dinner joked.
Alejandro smiled. Big.