GLENDALE, Ariz. — The anecdotes about Jose Abreu’s relentless preparation for life in the majors have begun to pour in from everywhere.
Hitting coach Todd Steverson offered the first one in January after the White Sox first baseman arrived 90 minutes early to mini-camp and the two headed for the batting cage in spite of chilly temperatures.
Conditioning director Allen Thomas delivered another about Abreu’s drive in the weight room since December and how the first baseman has been receptive to each and every suggestion. On Tuesday, second baseman Gordon Beckham produced the tallest tale in the bunch when he implied Abreu spent four hours in the batting cage the previous morning.
You could say the team’s biggest acquisition of the offseason hasn’t taken long to earn a solid reputation among teammates.
But those who already know him are aware that Abreu isn’t doing this for show.
His motivation isn’t to set an example for others. He merely wants to do everything possible to prepare for the rigors of acclimating to the major leagues.
“I have to prepare,” Abreu said through a translator. “That’s all I control for now is preparation. That’s why I’m doing this right now. …Right now I’m thinking of preparing for the 28th when the games start.”
The White Sox have put thought into their plan since they signed Abreu to a franchise-record $68 million deal in October.
Abreu and Thomas worked together briefly, shortly after the Cuban native signed. The two reconvened after the winter meetings when Thomas traveled to Miami and spent 14 days with Abreu working on workout and nutritional programs.
Allen also worked with Abreu for another week at the mini-camp in January and both have been back at Camelback Ranch working together since the start of February.
Thomas said Abreu has been focused the entire way as the White Sox have tried to put their stamp on the first baseman.
“Let me tell you, he’s taking it seriously,” Thomas said. “He’s really serious about his job. He’s really locked in as soon as he walks through the doors. … If he says 7:30, he’s there at 7:30. I love everything he’s about.”
The White Sox have been satisfied with every early report they have received thus far.
Their scouts told them Abreu had this type of personality, this type of work ethic. They sensed everyone was right too when they watched his workout and met with him.
Abreu has surpassed the expectations as the White Sox have given him his first taste of everything in the acclimation process aside from live pitching, general manager Rick Hahn said.
“Until you’re around him on a daily basis you don’t really appreciate it,” Hahn said.
They know what really will matter are the results, but the White Sox love Abreu’s dedication to his craft, that he will do anything to put himself in the best position for success. But Hahn also senses the club may have to pump the brakes for Abreu for his own good.
“We are going to have to perhaps pull Jose back a little bit,” Hahn said. “Obviously he’s preparing himself for a longer season than he has ever played before so we’re going to have to make sure as it gets a little bit deeper that he gets his days off, that he gets a chance to get away and clear his head. … This is just the way he goes about his business. This is just who he is. This is just his makeup.”
Abreu describes himself as a homebody. He likes to hang out with his wife and watch videos of Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera, among others, in his free time. He’s quiet in the clubhouse but his work ethic speaks volumes, teammate Adam Eaton said.
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“You can see it in his body language, if he doesn’t do something right, he goes after it again and learns from it,” Eaton said.
All of it is in pursuit of his lifelong dream.
Abreu wants to be a major leaguer, pure and simple. The day he signed, Abreu said his mother suggested a high jersey number because people would remember “what No. 79 did on the field.” He calls his family his driving force and the reason he’s where he is today.
Now that he’s on the cusp of realizing his dream, Abreu only wants to work harder.
“I feel like its getting close and I can’t wait to get started,” Abreu said.