CHICAGO — An important individual development came over Jose Abreu during the 2017 season, and it had nothing to do with his approach at the plate or his extra defensive work in the field.
The White Sox first baseman became the voice of the team, an unofficial but crucial role, with Abreu standing as one of the faces of the franchise. It was Abreu who often received questions from the media before and after games, even if he didn’t make a major contribution, taking pressure off the plethora of younger players in the clubhouse as they adjusted and acclimated.
Abreu’s thoughtful and gregarious personality regularly shined through in his interviews, conducted with the assistance of interpreter Billy Russo.
“Obviously this year because of all the change and the transition to this new process that the organization started, I had to step up,” Abreu told MLB.com, through Russo, during a recent interview. “I’m not a person who is outspoken. But I feel this team needed someone with the experience to take the baton to guide the new guys, especially with the wave of new and young talented players we have right now.
“I feel comfortable. I always tried to do my best to communicate with each one of them to just address issues on and off the field and try to help them, guide them during this process.”
Although Abreu was a standout player for Cienfuegos during his career in Cuba, he was not a player who really liked talking to the media. His arrival with the White Sox, behind a six-year, $68 million deal, brought about that transformation into a new responsibility, and Abreu overcame admitted early “shyness” with the help of teammates such as Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo among others.
Abreu also gave special credit to Minnie Minoso, his guide and mentor, for helping him find comfort in this new challenge.
“Minnie was one of the key persons for me during my first year to make that transition,” Abreu said. “He always sat down with me and he talked to me about life, baseball and how to adjust to life here as a Major Leaguer. That was really important and I’m very grateful for all the help he gave me. That’s probably why I feel in debt to him.”
Finding a comfort level with the Chicago media is something an appreciative Abreu points to as part of his development. An increased understanding of English also aided Abreu in moving into a necessary leadership role but also one he enjoys.
“Every time you talk with the truth and you speak from the bottom of your heart, you enjoy it,” Abreu said. “That’s what I’m doing. Every time I talk to you guys, I try to talk honestly and from the bottom of my heart.
“I’m not at that point where I can speak [English], but I can understand a lot. I think that’s why I’m feeling more comfortable. Like I always said, I want to learn and I want to be able to express myself in English. But that’s another process and I have to put more effort on that. I want to be able to speak with you guys in English.”
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003.
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