He turns 27 on Wednesday, but as it pertains to life in the United States, Jose Abreu considers himself an infant.
On Friday, the White Sox new first baseman spoke to reporters at SoxFest as he made his first public appearance since he joined the club. The Cuban star signed a club-record, six-year, $68-million contract in October.
Whether it’s adjusting to life in the majors or acclimating to a new lifestyle in the U.S., Abreu realizes he has much to learn. Despite the challenges he faces, Abreu sounds confident he won’t be overwhelmed.
“I am born again,” Abreu said through a translator. “I was just born. So now I’m going to learn new things. I’m going to take it easy. It’s like when you crawl and then you start walking and start running. I’m going to take it slowly every time.”
Abreu has put himself in a prime spot to acclimate.
Whether it was Minnie Minoso in the 1950s or more recently Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox are well-versed in helping Cuban players adjust to their new lives. When he suits up this season, Abreu will become the 17th Cuban national to have played for the White Sox.
Though they expect him to produce over the long haul, the White Sox understand Abreu will endure growing pains as any rookie would. They know the travel will be different, the 162-game schedule is more hectic and life off the field is unlike anything to which he is accustomed.
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“I just want to see him have the ability to maintain physically where he needs to be and mentally where he needs to be and then let the talent take over,” general manager Rick Hahn said in October. “We've been through it with Alexei and Dayan in recent years and it goes back decades in the organization. It takes a team effort.…It's a big deal. The man left his hometown, left his country and is learning a new culture and a new league.”
If Abreu has any doubts about his club, he has multiple countrymen on hand to ask. Minoso, 88, attended Abreu’s introductory press conference and also appeared at SoxFest on Friday. After starring for the White Sox in the 1950s, Minoso is now a White Sox ambassador and still sees support from the franchise more than 60 years after he debuted.
“When you’re finished, they are not an organization that forgets about you,” Minoso said. “They never forget it. When you play for this organization, if you give 100 percent, you know you’re not going to be in the street. They’re going to recognize you and give you something to support yourself.”
While he realizes the acclimation process won’t come overnight, Abreu knows the support system is in place. Considering he will — to an extent — experience childhood all over again, he couldn’t think of anything more helpful.
“It’s almost like having a mother,” Abreu said. “All these guys have had success and they have been treated really well here and that makes it so much easier for me to adjust coming to Major League Baseball. Playing around those guys is icing on the cake.”