GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Their goal is to get 100 touches before spring training ends, but those pesky exhibition games could soon disrupt them.
One way a group of White Sox players has prevented themselves from overloading on baseball this spring is by playing hacky sack with a soccer ball in front of the White Sox complex.
Led by catcher Dioner Navarro, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Hector Sanchez, Jose Quintana and Avisail Garcia, among others, have played soccer every day since the full squad arrived last Tuesday. Players in the group slide and dive and use their head, knees, chest and feet to bump the ball into the air and keep rallies alive as long as possible. Headed into Wednesday’s round, the players’ top effort so far is 53 touches.
“Its baseball for seven months,” Navarro said. “I think this kind of helps your mind to get away from that. It’s great that we’ve got a lot of guys that like soccer and it’s a great form of conditioning. I believe it helps my footwork for catching and my arm.”
Quintana thinks it has an equally big impact on players’ minds, too.
The White Sox opened camp 13 days ago. Players and coaches have said there has been an emphasis on quality work over quantity this spring and are pleased with how camp has gone.
But with another month until Opening Day, players realize the need to break up the monotony of spring training.
Getting away from work for a few minutes when they can has value.
“It’s a good time,” Quintana said. “We’re taking a little (time) for relaxation. We’re unwinding. That’s good. Everybody likes soccer here and we think it’s a good moment to enjoy.”
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Abreu has taken more time to wind down, too. He’s in his third spring with the club, which means he’s more comfortable and confident the team knows just who he is.
Abreu’s work ethic speaks for itself. Players, coaches and members of the front office know he’s in camp for the work first and foremost. And now that they do, Abreu can afford to enjoy himself more often. He believes one byproduct of the fun is that he and his teammates are building chemistry that could be beneficial once the season begins.
“It’s another way to create good chemistry in the clubhouse,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s also a good way to spend more time here before you go to your house.
“Its important to try to do something different, something outside baseball. And here is in spring training is the time to do it.”
Abreu said Cabrera is the worst player of the group. He and Quintana also both agree that Navarro, who used to play soccer with Toronto Blue Jays teammates before regular season games, is the best. Navarro nominated Sanchez for the best player in the group.
Even though many in the group are working together for the first time, Navarro is impressed with the effort.
“We’re a team,” Navarro said. “Our goal is to get 100 touches.
“If we keep working on it, we can accomplish what we want.”