Abreu, Soler sponsor Cuban youth team
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Jorge Soler of the Cubs have traveled a long way, literally and figuratively, from their days as youth players in Cuba, but neither wants to abandon his homeland.
The two rising Major League stars in Chicago have teamed up to sponsor a 12U team from Cuba to play in the Disney International Salute to Baseball tournament in Orlando, Fla., from July 5-11. The Cuban team will compete against teams from the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama and Honduras.
"I always try to help the kids, because I love the kids," Abreu said through a translator before the White Sox hosted the Astros on Tuesday night. "This is gonna be a very good opportunity for them to grow up and to show their talent and to see different things outside the island."
There are 12 players and two coaches on the Cuban team, and everyone has received clearance to make the trip to the U.S. Abreu admitted that part wasn't easy.
"It was a little bit complicated because of the Cuban laws," he said, "but all the kids have their visas."
One of the coaches, Enrique Rojas, coached Abreu as a youth. Abreu might not need a refresher course from his former coach, but he admitted he's not swinging the bat as well as he would like right now despite entering Tuesday leading the White Sox in homers (nine) and RBIs (33) and batting .275.
"I don't feel right now that I have the good rhythm in my approach, in my at-bats, but you have to fight through it," Abreu said. "I'm fighting through it and working through it. Right now, my main goal is not just to get my usual rhythm, I'm thinking about helping the team. I can play defense, I can drive in runs, and I can do the little things to help the team win."