Adam Engel has one of the best seats in the house to watch the powerful White Sox offense.
And he’s seeing a lot.
The team’s fourth outfielder has had himself a nice 2020 season, and he’s come through in some big moments, too, none bigger than when he made a very good catch in right for the final out of Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter. But he’s often found himself in the middle of the White Sox offense’s run-scoring explosions, too, and Thursday night’s 11-run output against the Kansas City Royals was no exception.
As you were watching Luis Robert pound a 458-foot home run that bounced off a staircase well beyond the left-field wall at Kauffman Stadium, Engel was watching it from just a few feet away. But the reactions weren’t at all dissimilar.
Turns out he’s a White Sox superfan just like the rest of you. And he’s got some words to go along with his facial expressions when it comes to Robert.
“I'd be lying if I said I was surprised,” Engel said of Robert’s latest feat of strength. “As soon as he hit it, it was crushed, man. I just wanted to see where it was going to land. This is a really big park, and he made it look small last night.
“I feel like I have that reaction to him like once a day. Whether it's in batting practice or defensive drills or in the game, it's impressive, man. He's an impressive player, and we get to see him do stuff — he might do it once a night, and most guys do it once in their career, do something that cool once in their career or once a year or whatever the case may be. This kid's doing it a lot.
“I can't imagine how good this guy is going to be. He's got a little room for improvement, and I don't even know what that's going to look like. Seeing him do stuff like last night, man this guy is one of the best players in the game right now, and he's only going to get better.”
Engel admitted that this roster is full of guys he loves to watch play, which should come as little shock considering they’re his teammates and this team is doing an awful lot of winning right now. But in a similar way that José Abreu spent the 2019 season touting the kind of talent that was coming to the South Side and is now right in the middle of one of the most productive lineups in baseball, Engel is basking in the glow of the success the team’s rebuilding project has brought.
“This team is full of what I call my favorite players,” he said. “Every guy on this team brings something to the table that's so much fun and obviously productive in helping us win. … You can go all the way up and down the lineup.”
OK. Well, why not start with Abreu?
“We were talking last night. Pito was up first and third, me and Tim (Anderson) were sitting next to each other in the dugout and were like, ‘This guy is going to drive in this run. This guy’s an RBI machine,’ and just going on and on about (how) he could be up there with one leg and eight fingers and he'll find a way to drive in a run. He's just an animal.”
Now that’s a scouting report.
Engel likely could have gone or forever about each one of his teammates. But the largest number of questions lobbed his way before Friday’s game in Kansas City dealt with Anderson, who is once again in the running for the batting title after finishing last season with the highest batting average in the big leagues. Anderson has picked up right where he left off from his breakout season in 2019, and though he’s got bigger things on his to-do list than win another batting title, he’s having a terrific individual season.
Anyone who’s talked with or read about Anderson knows his transformation into one of the better hitters in the league has been a result of hard work and a have-fun attitude. He’s a face of the franchise and a fan favorite on the South Side for a reason.
But if you thought you were No. 7’s No. 1 fan, know that you’ve got some competition.
“You watch him on the field,” Engel said, “and you're like, 'Man, this guy's a special talent, and the ceiling's the limit for this guy.' And then I have the privilege to watch him work and how much pride he takes and how hard he works, just the attention to detail and the questions he asks people to help him improve on what he feels he needs to improve on. And he's just going to keep getting better.
“Watching him the last few years, you've seen him get better and better and better. And then a guy like me, who's been around him for the last few years, who sees him work, you're like, 'Man, this guy is going to continue to get better.' And it's really fun to watch.
“I am the biggest Tim Anderson fan I think there is, just because I get to see stuff like that. And I really, really appreciate stuff like that. I really respect guys when they work super, super hard and they have a lot of success. And he's having a ton of fun doing it. So Tim's my favorite player.”
As for that front-row seat to everything these young White Sox stars are doing, Engel shared a recent memory of Anderson, one that involved Engel showing up to the ballpark early, only to find that Anderson had beat him there and was already working on his defense, hours before that day’s game.
“He had played a bunch of games before that, and he was the only guy out there taking ground balls at 9:30 or 10 o'clock,” Engel said. “And I had to like double take and be like, 'Is he in the lineup today?' And I asked him, 'Are you playing today?' And Tim's like, 'Yeah, I'm playing, I've just got to get my work in, get moving, get going.' And he's in a full-body sweat just crushing some ground balls.
“That's one of my favorites, the hard-working Tim Anderson, the Tim that nobody gets to see except for us. You get to see Tim and he's a star, he's one of our best players, and he's active in social media and stuff like that. And he's so much fun, he's such a fun guy. And then when it comes time for business, there he is showing up, he's the first one there. He's always there.
“He's one of my favorite players.”
Engel’s got a lot of them. It’s a good guess that fans of this White Sox team do, too, and with good reason. This is the talent-packed lineup the rebuild was always supposed to yield. And now it’s happening in real time. They're putting on "light shows" on a regular basis.
You might not get a better seat than Engel’s, in this bizarre, fanless season or in any other. But you can still marvel at this team’s feats just like him.