In case you haven’t noticed, Jose Abreu-mania has officially hit the baseball world.
With 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in so far in April, the Chicago White Sox slugger is off to the best start of any rookie ever. Everyone now knows the struggles that Abreu has had to face. Just like all Cuban ball players, Abreu left his family, friends and past behind. As he stepped foot on new soil, he was handed a lucrative deal. With that money came the expectation that he would be threat in the middle of the lineup for years to come.
If Cuban hopefuls produce right away like Abreu and the more flamboyant Yasiel Puig have, they become an iconic figure in the game of baseball. Fans make sure that they are in their seats, watching every at-bat. These guys sell tickets, souvenirs and hope. Teams market themselves around these Cuban heroes. Fans of the team these guys are affiliated with cannot help but feel like their team, not just the player, is in the spotlight.
This has happened with the White Sox so far this season. There have been more coverage by national media outlets about Abreu and the White Sox in the past month than all of 2009-2013 combined. While this may be a little bit of an exaggeration, there is no overstating how captivating this team has been so far. Even if they are still treading water to stay afloat over .500, the way they win ballgames draws the public’s attention.
Walk-offs by seemingly everyone on the team, including Abreu’s grand slam game winner on Friday, has the fanbase excited and the country interested. A team that was suppose to be in rebuilding mode are now being talked about as going as far as Abreu can take them. Especially in a weak AL Central, as long as the Sox bats stay as hot as Abreu, there is no telling how far they can go.
White Sox fans need this. They need a superstar to rally around and a team to get them excited. With longtime fan favorite Paul Konerko retiring after this season, they desire someone new to call their favorite. The difference between Paulie and Abreu is the publicity outside of Chicago. Abreu has had more hype around him in 30 days than Konerko had in his whole time on the South Side.
However, they both have similar personality types. Each man carries himself with dignity and has a team-first attitude. The only striking difference is the background narrative.
As the second team in what is considered the second city of the United States, the Sox needed a headliner; someone who could bring attention and excitement to the ball club. They found the perfect person in Abreu. Humble and soft spoken, one will not find Abreu speeding around in a sports car or hitting up the downtown scene until the early hours of the morning. The slugger’s professionalism and athleticism are a perfect combination to build around.
Already this season, the team has seen the difference Abreu brings to the overall lineup. Penciling him into the three hole has played a large part in the team’s offense being ranked No. 1 in all of the AL. So far, the hype is real. Abreu has been drawing attention while also winning games. If this trend continues, there will be a packed crowd at U.S. Cellular Field come October.