White Sox

Offseason trip to Cuba ‘very huge’ for Jose Abreu and family

Offseason trip to Cuba ‘very huge’ for Jose Abreu and family

PHILADELPHIA -- He is ecstatic about next month’s trip back to Cuba, but Jose Abreu is even happier for the rest of his family.

The White Sox slugger said Wednesday afternoon that he recently secured a green card that will allow himself, his wife and his parents to travel back and forth between Cuba. With 11 games left in the season, Abreu, who is hitting .300 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs this season, said he wouldn’t allow himself to think too much about the possibilities of the four-day vacation because he wants to stay focused on the regular season. But Abreu, who also returned to Cuba last offseason as part of a Major League Baseball goodwill tour, said the upcoming visit would mean everything to his parents, who haven’t returned to Cuba since they joined him in the United States during his rookie season in 2014.

“I’m almost speechless,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I don’t want to think about it now because I want to finish strong here and I don’t want to lose my mind. But that’s going to be something very, very huge for us because it’s an opportunity, not just for me, but for my parents, too, to go back and be with their parents. That’s something you can’t describe. “I don’t know (what the emotions will be like), but I very much believe it’ll be something exciting for all of us.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Abreu said improved relations between the United States and Cuba are a big reason he is free to return home and visit much sooner than he originally expected. Players who defect from Cuba normally are restricted from returning for at least eight years.

But during the December trip Abreu learned he could return in the future as long as he received the proper documentation. Abreu did that with the help of his agent Diego Bentz, of the Independent Sports & Entertainment agency.

It’s similar to a work visa Abreu’s friend, comedian Luis Silva, received as part of a cultural exchange between Cuba and the United States that permits him to travel back and forth for work.

Abreu said President Barack Obama’s visit in March -- when the Tampa Bay Rays played Team Cuba in Havana -- has helped the Cuban government realize players aren’t trying to make political statements by leaving.

“Our goal is just to try and help represent our country and get the best we can in what we are doing,” Abreu said. “That (visit) has helped to pave the way for us to come back.”

A return trip home last December allowed Abreu to visit many people he wondered if he’d ever see again. He had a chance to reunite with his 6-year-old son, Dariel -- who also recently was granted a visa that allows him to travel to the United States to see his father -- as well as family and friends. Abreu can’t wait for his parents to experience the same opportunity as he did.

“That will be the kind of interaction we can have now with our country,” Abreu said. “We can go back. We can visit our family and we can return. That’s good because all of our families are there and we need to see them, we need to visit them and we need to take care of them and now we can do it. But also we can come back here and that’s something why we have to be grateful with this country, too. It’s not just that they welcome us with open arms, it’s that they are always working in the way to allow us to go back to our country, too.”

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

Had this been the scripted outcome, it would've sounded a little too cheesy.

But in reality, it was a moment that got White Sox fandom as excited as the dude rounding the bases.

Eloy Jimenez, playing in his first game at Wrigley Field nearly two years after the Cubs traded him to the White Sox, smacked a game-winning homer off Pedro Strop in the ninth inning, breaking a 1-all tie and giving the South Siders a 3-1 victory in the first Crosstown game of the 2019 season.

Jimenez had been asked countless times about what it would be like to play in the park he long assumed would be the one where he played his big league games. And he expressed excitement, though committed to saying it would be like any other game.

It wasn't.

Jimenez had a disappointing outcome in his first at-bat of the evening, ending a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first inning with a double play. He singled and walked in later plate appearances, but nothing was anywhere near as dramatic as his trip to the plate in the ninth. He hit Strop's pitch so hard it sounded like he broke his bat. The ball still ended up in the left-field bleachers.

One ninth-inning blast in June 2019 won't rip the rebuilding White Sox contention window open immediately, but what an image of rebuilding progress it was, with Jimenez, the middle-of-the-order centerpiece for the next decade, blasting a game-winner against the Crosstown-rival Cubs.

Jimenez's permanent smile was indeed present as he rounded the bases, made even bigger by his Tuesday night heroics. The White Sox are hoping they were the first of many.

 

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Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

Ozzie Guillén and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on a special Crosstown edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: