When White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said Thursday that Nick Madrigal was “pretty close” to getting called up to the Major League club, he wasn’t lying.
They were literally about to tell him he was headed to Kansas City.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround,” Madrigal said. “They told me and they got me on a flight in a couple hours.”
Madrigal took batting practice in Schaumburg just moments after reporters talked to Getz at the White Sox’s new makeshift training facility. When practice wrapped up, the White Sox’s top prospect in Schaumburg was informed he needed to head to the airport to play the Royals.
“I've imagined this moment for a long time, ever since I was a little kid,” Madrigal said Friday from Kauffman Stadium. “It looks a little different with the stadiums empty, but it's still a dream come true and it's something I've worked extremely hard for a long time.”
Even with travel being more difficult these days, nothing was going to stop Madrigal from booking it out of Schaumburg. Despite COVID-19 concerns across baseball, he had to take a commercial flight to join the White Sox.
“I was one of the first ones on the plane so I was kind of able to spread myself out from everyone,” Madrigal said. “It wasn't a full flight at all, so I wasn't in contact with anyone. They were real careful about that. It was a quick turnaround. I only got a couple hours to pack and I showed up last night.”
By Friday afternoon, Madrigal was written into manager Rick Renteria’s lineup.
Second base. Batting ninth.
That’s his spot now.
"You'll see him in my lineup every day," Renteria said after the White Sox beat the Royals 3-2.
Madrigal now joins a core group of promising talent in Chicago that is only missing pitcher Michael Kopech, who opted out of the 2020 season. Otherwise, the key pieces of the rebuild have arrived.
“It's a great feeling. I feel like there have been glimpses over the years of the potential of this team and hopefully we can keep that going,” Madrigal said. “I'm looking to hopefully catch fire with this lineup and seeing what we can do.”
The fire didn’t start right away. Madrigal only reached base once in his Major League debut -- on an error by Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. His speed was evident on the base paths, but Madrigal was still thrown out at home plate on a perfect throw by Royals gold glove left fielder Alex Gordon.
"I thought I was going to get in there but (Salvador Perez) made a really good tag and it's just one of those plays where if the throw is just a little bit up the line, I'm probably safe," Madrigal said.
The wait for his first Major League run will have to wait, but the excitement of the debut was not spoiled. Madrigal traded in No. 92 for No. 1 on his uniform, somewhat of a concession because the White Sox have so many single-digits retired.
“I wore (No. 1) when I was real young,” he said. “Just one of those numbers I feel comfortable with.”
No. 92 didn’t feel right. And he couldn’t wait to give it up. Madrigal was genuinely upset when the White Sox didn’t put him on the Opening Day roster.
“He actually didn’t shake my hand when I told him he wasn’t going to make the club,” Renteria said. “He just turned around and walked out. And I was like, ‘OK.’
Madrigal didn’t hide his anger, but said he was able to turn the page by the time he reported to Schaumburg the next day. Just a week later, his dreams were realized.
“It was just kind of a bump in the road. I'm not losing sleep or thinking about it at all at this point,” he said Friday.
Time will tell if those feelings will ever resurface, as the White Sox earned an extra year of control over the former No. 4 overall draft pick with the delay. But Friday, there was too much to celebrate for the California kid who grew up watching the Giants and Athletics.
“We would always watch them. I remember watching so closely and just every single detail about them,” Madrigal said. “I remember thinking it would be the coolest thing ever to show up every day and play baseball.”
He now gets to do that at the Major League level. And although the circumstances weren’t exactly what Madrigal would have drawn up – with his family unable to attend – he still was grateful for the opportunity to call his parents and deliver the news.
“They got a little bit emotional when I told them,” Madrigal said. “Just been so many years of hard work from them and just taking me to games. So they were the first ones I called. I texted my brothers. Other than, I kept it pretty close in the family.”
While they couldn’t attend Friday’s game in Kansas City, Madrigal's family did join in on a Zoom call, watching the game virtually on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast. Madrigal didn't even know about that until a reporter told him after the game.
"That's great. I talked to them before the game and they were telling me that they'd be watching, just supporting me," Madrigal said. "They wished they could be there and I told them there are many more games in the future that they can come to."
That there are. Madrigal is here to stay.