CHICAGO – Scan the Chicago White Sox lineup on any given day over the past two seasons, and it looks like Latin America. There are Cuban players in catcher, first base, third and center field. Since late July, a Venezuelan has been handling the second base. One Dominican patrol left the area, and other Dominicans have served as designated hitters at various points.
Regularly, seven out of nine hitters in the White Sox lineup were born in that region of the world. And while the team’s All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson is injured or rested, the number jumps to eight, with another Dominican, Leri Garcia, filling his spot.
“It’s something you don’t see much in the United States,” Cuban center fielder Luis Robert recently said in Spanish.
In terms of numbers (28 percent) and talent (Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto), Latinos are a vibrant and important backbone for Major League Baseball. Perhaps no team knows this better than the White Sox, who have a rich tradition of Cuban players and play on the south side of Chicago, a community with a large black and Latino population.
The White Sox’s teaming from the depths of the American League Central since 2008 coincided with the bloom of major Latinos on the roster to win the team’s first division title and transform into one of the most exciting teams in baseball. These include veteran first baseman and team leader Jose Abreu, 34, who is the current winner of the AL Most Valuable Player Award; third baseman Yoan Moncada, 26; left fielder Eloy Jimenez, 24; and Robert, 24.
The White Sox signed Cuban-born catcher Yasmani Grandal ahead of the 2020 season, and he was traded for Venezuelan second baseman Cesar Hernandez on this year’s trading deadline. His pitching staff also includes notable players of Latino descent, such as Carlos Rodan, a Cuban American All-Star who was born in Miami and raised in North Carolina; and pitchers Reynaldo López, a Dominican, and Jose Ruiz, a Venezuelan.
When the Astros (95-67) host the White Sox (93-69) in a best-of-five American League division series starting Thursday in Houston, the Astros will field a lineup with Puerto Ricans, Cubans and a Venezuelan. The White Sox, however, will have more.
“There are always more Americans than Latinos, but this is a team with a lot of Latinos, mainly in the lineup, who play every day,” said Jimenez, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. “And there’s a sense of pride because you almost never see it.”
The White Sox, one of the Native American League franchises, have long promoted Latino talent, particularly from Cuba. In the 1950s, Cuban outfielder Minnie Minoso became a hugely popular All-Star. He was the first black player from a major league outside Latin America and a treasured figure in White Sox history. A few cameos allowed his career with the team to span five decades.
Minoso’s legacy goes on over the years, from Jose Contreras to Orlando Hernandez to Alexei Ramirez to Abreu to Moncada to Robert, many of whom faced harsh defection to immigrate to the United States to pursue their dreams. Became the White Sox on August 1, 2020 First team in major league history Cuban-born player to occupy the top four spots in a lineup: Robert, Moncada, Abru and Grendel.
“You look at our roster, and it’s obviously undeniable about the Cuban presence, very little Latin presence on that,” said general manager Rick Hahn. “As cliche as it may sound, the environment this team has had over the years is one where people are free to be themselves and express their individuality.”
This is manifested in music from language to food, in the clubhouse, off the field, and before and during games, accompanied by dancing in the dugout, and through various exchanges of traditions and cultures.
The team’s all-star close, Liam Hendrix, who hails from Australia and prefers to play in the Dominican Winter League an off-season, credited the team’s Latino players for bringing in the spirit and adding talent to their game.
“They make everything interesting all the time, and it’s a blast to be here with these guys,” said Hendrix, 32. “We have something together, being people from the islands.”
Lucas Giolito, 27, a starting pitcher who is white and from Los Angeles, said he loved what he learned about the world from his teammates.
“I am fortunate that I not only get to interact with a group of people who are just like me everyday,” he said, “and have been able to learn a lot about culture and heritage, from where so many People come, all that kind of stuff. It’s great.”
In a sport where the number of black Americans has dwindled to about 8 percent, Anderson, 28, said she felt a kinship with her Latino peers, many of whom are Black Latinos, and called it “to fit in with them”. super cool”.
“They are just like black people,” said Anderson, who is from Alabama and, like some of his Latino peers, plays on the field with a glee that has challenged the rigid norms of baseball. “We’re talking about the same kind of culture. We’re good together. The only thing is that they only speak Spanish. Besides, everything is related in a way.”
Anderson, the only black American player on the White Sox for most of last year, said he might associate with Latinos because they likewise came from “nothing”. He added: “You grind to get here. You’re grateful to be here, and you don’t take anything lightly.”
On the opening day of last season, Anderson took a knee during the national anthem to call attention to systemic racism. kneeling with them on the field He had several Latino teammates – Abreu, Robert, Jiménez and Edwin Encarnesian, then the team’s designated hitter – and a white teammate, Giolito. Two coaches, Daryl Boston and Joe McEwing, also joined the players in taking a knee.
Anderson said that his teammates connected with him because they understood some of his message and because they wanted to have a pat on their back in a difficult moment, which, he said, spoke a lot about their similarity.
“We didn’t really do it to get attention or for bad reasons,” Jimenez said. “We felt we could do that and support that.”
In the clubhouse, Robert said, most Latinos have lockers near each other, and they always laugh and enjoy. Moncada said that the team usually alternated the music – songs in English one day, songs in Spanish the next, sometimes even their own. (He dropped his first song in February.)
“It feels good because we all know where we come from,” Garcia said of his Latino teammates. “We are from different countries, but at the same time, we are united and with the same mindset. We feel proud for each other. And what helps us to unite is our past, which Thank God you come from the family, very humble, and always with the support of teammates.”
Garcia, 30, said he learned about life and traditions in the United States from his American peers. Likewise, he answered questions from his American peers about their culture and foods, such as a dish of mango, mashed plantains. Food is often a great equalizer.
Hendrix said he was often one of the first players to serve himself from the Latino section of the dining room, not just whatever was on the menu that day. Anderson said that he had come to love empanadas. “Whatever they bring, really, like chicken with rice, I’ll eat with them, that’s for sure,” he said.
Giolito said he ate stewed chicken and stewed oxtail – traditional Dominican dishes – whenever he was around. “We always have Latin food options, like fried plantains, and you can never go wrong,” he said.
And with Latinos moving on to the field, the White Sox are hoping for a long run this post season.