FORT MYERS, Fla. – Spring training took on a decidedly festive feel on Monday morning when the clubhouse doors opened and a mariachi band paraded in to the strains of "Volver, Volver."
That's Alex Verdugo's walkup song, and he had summoned the band from nearby Cape Coral as a celebration of his Mexican heritage. Wearing authentic Charro outfits, the five-piece band serenaded the players during stretching on a field outside the clubhouse, drawing curious onlookers.
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The ostensible purpose of the visit was the impending departures of Verdugo and teammate Jarren Duran to join Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic. At the urging of manager Alex Cora, the two created a presentation highlighting their shared heritage, which included a posterboard with various Mexican facts, such as a bio of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
They each addressed the team on Monday in what doubly served as a team-building and educational exercise.
"I knew I had to do like a poster with some facts on it," Verdugo said. "But I think the big thing that kind of got everybody excited was having the mariachi band here."
Cora's motives ran deeper. He recognizes the doubts surrounding his team, and one way to overcome them is to pull together.
"I know a lot of you guys questioned the clubhouse and leadership and what we're doing there," he said. "We're going to do stuff to get to where we're supposed to. Dugie, he's been here since '20. He's an important part of what we're trying to accomplish and you see what he's done physically and where he's at.
"And obviously Jarren is a kid that we appreciate and we expect a lot of him, and just for them to step up and be uncomfortable doing this, they did their research. It was actually a great, great day for us in the clubhouse."
Verdugo shared some facts about Mexico that surprised him: it boasts the biggest pyramid in the world ("Everyone thinks it's Egypt"), is the world's leading exporter of beer ("I don't know if that's a good one"), and is where the meteoroid that wiped out the dinosaurs struck, in Yucatan.
He stayed at the park until 6 p.m. on Sunday printing facts and pasting them up like a high school project.
"It was hard work, but it felt good and it was rewarding to see the guys, the clubhouse, everybody, just really enjoy it," Verdugo said.
Because he arrived in 2020, Verdugo actually qualifies as an elder statesman. Only three players have worn a Red Sox uniform longer: Rafael Devers, Chris Sale, and Ryan Brasier. Verdugo may not be the first player that springs to mind when discussing leaders, but he takes the responsibility seriously.
"I'm not a rookie anymore," he said. "I've been in the big leagues for a little bit now, and obviously I'm still relatively new, but I've been around a lot of veterans, a lot of great guys. That's the biggest thing, making it personal, just trying to relate to some of the guys. Everybody's going to struggle. Just letting that guy know, 'Hey, bro. We've got you, man. Come over here. Let's go eat, get your mind off of it.' That beats going to the hotel room and just screaming into the pillow."
A little mariachi music never hurt, either.