Eloy Jiménez always wanted to be like his childhood hero, Sammy Sosa.
Since going from the Cubs to the White Sox in what might end up the most consequential Crosstown trade since Sosa switched sides in 1992, Jiménez lost one of the biggest connections he had to his one-time idol: playing for the same team.
But he's still a Dominican slugger playing in Chicago. And now, he and his teammates have the opportunity to make a Sosa-sized splash.
"We're trying to make that (happen), trying to change the city," Jiménez said on a recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. "It's always the other part (of town that gets the attention), so now it's our time to be available to have that success like, back in the day, he had.
"It's our time right now."
Jiménez certainly wasn't alone as a Dominican youngster looking up to Sosa, who shot to superstardom years after the White Sox dealt him to the other side of town. Sosa smacked 545 of his 609 career home runs in a Cubs uniform, and his season-long home run derby with Mark McGwire in 1998 was attributed to bringing interest back to the game after the 1994 strike.
The two places Sosa's star shone brightest? Chicago and the Dominican Republic.
"For me, he was a superhero," Jiménez said. "He's from Dominican, he was a really good player, and he represented the city, he represented our country. Everybody in Dominican, when they see a player like that, you impact people. The way he played the game, the way he owned Chicago.
"It's good to have a player that, like him, like Vladimir Guerrero, like David Ortiz, Manny (Ramírez), (Alex Rodriguez). To have those guys impacts you. You want to be there, you don't want to be like halfway, you want to be like them. And that motivates you.
"In Dominican, there's a lot of bad things to do. So when you see a player like that, especially when you're growing up, you want to be like them. You want to play the game, you want to play sports. You don't want to be in your house, thinking too much (about the bad things). You just want to be like those superstars. And for me, that motivated me to be in this type of level."
Indeed, Jiménez is one of baseball's rising stars, fresh off a 2020 season in which he had one of the best offensive seasons in the American League, winning a Silver Slugger. His presence in the middle of a loaded lineup is part of why the White Sox own realistic World Series expectations heading into the 2021 campaign. And like fellow talented teammates Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert, Jiménez is signed to a long-term contract that figures to help the team keep its contention window open for years.
The White Sox, more than any other team in the city, look primed for long-term success. And though they have to win to back up the bouts of self-confidence and the preseason prognostications, they look capable of making a Sosa-style impact on Chicago.
Jiménez is ready to do his part, with a goal of smacking 40 homers in a season, which Sosa did seven times, and winning an MVP, which Sosa did in 1998. He's also got a huge, fun-loving personality. Sosa used home run hops and kisses for the cameras to win over fans. It's easy to envision Jiménez doing the same, making faces for the camera, jokingly staring daggers at Robert in the outfield and yelling "Hi, Mom!" at every opportunity.
Where Jiménez and his teammates might be able to outdo Sosa, though, is in the winning department. Sosa's Cubs teams only made two postseasons. Jiménez is already halfway to that total in just two seasons with the White Sox.
"We tasted it," he said of last year's playoff experience. "And it's good. Now, you taste one, you want to be available to taste more.
"This year's going to be fun."
If it's fun enough, Jiménez and his teammates could rapidly rise to Sosa's level of Chicago sports celebrity, allowing the kid from the Dominican Republic to be like his childhood hero.