If there’s someone inside the White Sox clubhouse who knows Eloy Jimenez best, it’s probably new designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.
Their friendship dates back to 2012 when Jimenez was attending a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. One day, Encarnacion came by to watch his nephew play at the same facility but almost instantly, he was caught up in the wow factor of this young, skinny teenager who had an innate ability to crush baseballs.
“That was the first time I saw Eloy. He was 14, hitting bombs to the opposite field. I was very impressed when I saw him for the first time,“ Encarnacion said in a joint interview with Jimenez on the White Sox Talk Podcast.
Jump ahead eight years to this offseason. Encarnacion was a free agent looking for a place to play and a teammate to join him in punishing opposing pitchers.
“When the White Sox came to me, I started thinking about Eloy. We can play together. That’s the first thing that came to my mind because I know this kid for a long time,” Encarnacion said. “We are very close. Our families are very close. It’s going to be an exciting year, a very fun year for us. The talent this team has, everybody knows what this team has. The young talent, they want to win. Why not? Why not come here?”
Now, after seeing Jimenez belt 31 homers in 122 games in his rookie season, Encarnacion believes the young White Sox slugger is just getting started.
A truly special career could be coming. The kind that winds up in the Hall of Fame.
“As a baseball player, he can be whatever he wants to be. He has the talent to hit over 500 homers in the major leagues. I know he can do it,” Encarnacion said.
500 homers? That’s icon territory. We’re talking about a group that includes Frank Thomas, Mickey Mantle, David Ortiz, Ernie Banks and Ted Williams. Giant names. Generational players. Even a stud like Encarnacion probably won’t reach that milestone. He’s hit 414 home runs, which is no small feat. That’s more than Hall of Famers Al Kaline, Jim Rice, Tony Perez, Harold Baines and the newly inducted Larry Walker.
Encarnacion sees an even greater career coming for the White Sox left fielder with the charismatic face and gargantuan home run potential.
What does Jimenez think about Encarnacion’s lofty prediction?
“That’s good. When a superstar tells you that, how are going to feel? Amazing,” Jimenez said. “I’m going to keep working to do that”
And that last line is precisely why Encarnacion believes Jimenez has a chance to become a member of the 500 club one day.
He’ll work and work and work--and will never let fame or money get to his head.
“Where he comes from with his family, they are very strong. They talk with him and his brother. He’s not going to change. No matter how much money he makes and what he does, he’s not going to change and he will do the team right. That’s why I believe a lot in this guy. I know that in the next 10 years, you guys are going to remember this,” Encarnacion said.
We’ll definitely save it for our records and maybe one day, for Cooperstown.