CHICAGO — Scan the Chicago White Sox lineup on any given day over the previous two seasons, and it appears to be like like Latin America. There are Cuban gamers at catcher, first base, third and heart subject. Since late July, a Venezuelan has been dealing with second base. A Dominican patrols left subject, and different Dominicans have served because the designated hitter at numerous factors.
Regularly, seven of the 9 hitters within the White Sox lineup have been born in that area of the world. And when Tim Anderson, the staff’s All-Star shortstop, has been injured or resting, the quantity has reached eight, with Leury Garcia, one other Dominican, filling his spot.
“That’s something you don’t see much of in the United States,” heart fielder Luis Robert, a Cuban, mentioned in Spanish just lately.
In phrases of numbers (28 %) and expertise (Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto), Latinos type a vibrant and vital spine to Major League Baseball. Perhaps no staff is aware of that higher than the White Sox, who've a wealthy custom of Cuban gamers and play on the South Side of Chicago, a group with giant Black and Latino populations.
The rise of the White Sox from the depths of the American League Central to profitable the staff’s first division title since 2008 and reworking into one of the thrilling groups in baseball has coincided with the blossoming of distinguished Latinos on the roster. They embody the veteran first baseman and staff chief Jose Abreu, 34, the reigning winner of the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award; third baseman Yoan Moncada, 26; left fielder Eloy Jimenez, 24; and Robert, 24.
The White Sox signed the Cuban-born catcher Yasmani Grandal earlier than the 2020 season, and so they traded for second baseman Cesar Hernandez, a Venezuelan, at this yr’s commerce deadline. Their pitching employees additionally contains notable gamers of Latino descent, akin to Carlos Rodon, a Cuban American All-Star who was born in Miami and raised in North Carolina; and pitchers Reynaldo Lopez, 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 sequence beginning Thursday in Houston, the Astros will subject a lineup with Puerto Ricans, Cubans and a Venezuelan. The White Sox, although, could have extra.
“There’s always more Americans than Latinos, but this is a team with a lot of Latinos, principally in the lineup, who play every day,” mentioned Jimenez, who was born and raised within the Dominican Republic. “And there’s a sense of pride because you almost never see it.”
The White Sox, one of many unique American League franchises, have lengthy fostered Latino expertise, particularly from Cuba. In the Nineteen Fifties, the Cuban outfielder Minnie Minoso grew to become a vastly fashionable All-Star. He was the main leagues’ first Black participant out of Latin America and a treasured determine in White Sox historical past. Just a few cameos allowed his profession with the staff to stretch into 5 a long time.
Minoso’s legacy has been carried on by the years, from Jose Contreras to Orlando Hernandez to Alexei Ramirez to Abreu to Moncada to Robert, lots of whom endured harrowing defections to return to the United States to chase their desires. On Aug. 1, 2020, the White Sox grew to become the first team in major league history to have a Cuban-born participant occupy the highest 4 spots in a lineup: Robert, Moncada, Abreu and Grandal.
“You look at our roster, and it’s obviously undeniable about the Cuban presence, much less the Latin presence on it,” General Manager Rick Hahn mentioned. “As cliché as it might seem, the environment that this team has had the last couple years is one where guys are just free to be themselves and express their personality.”
That has manifested itself within the clubhouse, away from the sector, and earlier than and through video games, with dancing within the dugout and thru numerous exchanges of traditions and cultures, from language to meals to music.
Liam Hendriks, the staff’s All-Star nearer, who's from Australia and liked enjoying within the Dominican winter league one low season, credited the staff’s Latino gamers with bringing a jovial ambiance and including aptitude to their play.
“They make everything interesting at all times, and it’s a blast to come out here with these guys,” mentioned Hendriks, 32. “We have a little something together, being guys from islands.”
Lucas Giolito, 27, a beginning pitcher who's white and from Los Angeles, mentioned he liked how a lot he had discovered in regards to the world from his teammates.
“I’m fortunate that I get to interact with not just a bunch of people who are like me everyday,” he mentioned, “and be able to learn so much about culture and heritage, where a lot of these guys come from, all that kind of stuff. It’s great.”
In a sport the place the variety of Black Americans has dwindled to just about 8 %, Anderson, 28, mentioned he felt a kinship along with his Latino teammates, lots of whom are Black Latinos, and referred to as it “super cool” to slot in with them.
“They’re like the same as Black people,” mentioned Anderson, who's from Alabama and, like a few of his Latino teammates, performs with a glee on the sector that has challenged baseball’s stodgy norms. “We’re talking about the same kind of culture. We get along well. The only thing is they just speak Spanish. Other than that, everything is kind of relatable.”
Anderson, the one Black American participant on the White Sox for many of final yr, mentioned he might join with the Latinos as a result of they equally got here from “nothing.” He added: “You grind to get here. You’re thankful to be here, and you don’t take anything for granted.”
On opening day of final season, Anderson knelt throughout the nationwide anthem to name consideration to systemic racism. Kneeling alongside him on the field have been a number of of his Latino teammates — Abreu, Robert, Jimenez and Edwin Encarnacion, then the staff’s designated hitter — and a white teammate, Giolito. Two coaches, Daryl Boston and Joe McEwing, additionally joined the kneeling gamers.
Anderson mentioned his teammates joined him as a result of they understood a few of his message and since they needed to have his again at a tricky second, which, he added, mentioned quite a bit about their similarities.
“We didn’t really do it to call attention or do it for bad reasons,” Jimenez mentioned. “We just felt that we could do it and support him.”
In the clubhouse, Robert mentioned, many of the Latinos have their lockers close to each other, and they're all the time laughing and having fun with themselves. Moncada mentioned the staff usually alternated music — songs in English sooner or later, songs in Spanish the following, typically together with his personal. (He dropped his first music in February.)
“It feels good because we all know where we came from,” Garcia mentioned of his Latino teammates. “We’re from different countries but, at the same time, we’re united and with the same mentality. We feel the pride for each other. And what helps us be united is our pasts, the family you come from, very humble, and thank God, always with the support of teammates.”
Garcia, 30, mentioned he had discovered about life and traditions within the United States from his American teammates. In the identical manner, he had answered his American teammates’ questions on his personal tradition and meals, akin to mangú, a dish of mashed plantains. Food is usually an important equalizer.
Hendriks mentioned he was usually one of many first gamers to serve himself from the Latino part of the meals room fairly than no matter else was on the menu that day. Anderson mentioned he had come to like empanadas. “Whatever they bring in, really, like chicken with rice, I’ll eat with them, that’s for sure,” he mentioned.
Giolito mentioned he devoured stewed hen and stewed oxtail — conventional Dominican dishes — each time they have been round. “We always have Latin food options, like fried plantains, and you can never go wrong,” he mentioned.
And with the Latinos main the best way on the sector, the White Sox are hoping for a long term this postseason.