Who was happier: Abreu or his teammates?

Slugger -- and White Sox -- overcome with emotion upon MVP win

November 13th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Any current White Sox player possessing even a semi-active social media account sent out congratulations to 2020 American League Most Valuable Player on Thursday night and Friday morning.

These weren’t perfunctory sentiments of praise. Whether it was a one- or two-word tweet or some sort of Instagram post, these were honest feelings of respect for the first baseman who has meant so much to the White Sox over the past seven seasons.

“They are proud of me,” an understandably upbeat Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo during a Friday morning Zoom call. “I received a ton of messages and calls last night and even this morning.

“It was a good thing, because you feel like you did something special -- not just for you but for the people who are around you, for all those guys. You know that they love you and they appreciate what you do for them and what you do for the team every day.”

Abreu heard from Eloy Jiménez, Leury García, Luis Robert, Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnación. He spoke of a long phone conversation he had with catcher Yasmani Grandal on Friday, and that group doesn’t include tweets from players ranging from Lucas Giolito to James McCann to up-and-coming prospect Jake Burger.

Before he inadvertently left out a name or two, Abreu smiled and simply thanked the entire White Sox organization.

“This award is not just for me,” Abreu said. “It's for them, too. They appreciate and they love you because of who you are and not just because of what you do. Then it is authentic. I have to be grateful with everybody in the organization because they've been supporting me for a very long time.”

A total of 21 Baseball Writers' Association of America voters placed Abreu first on their MVP ballot, followed by eight second-place votes and one third-place vote. He joined Frank Thomas (1993, '94), Dick Allen ('72) and Nellie Fox ('59) as White Sox MVP Award winners.

When Abreu’s name was announced by Josh Donaldson Thursday night, he pumped his fists in the air in celebration but was then overwhelmed by emotion for over one minute. He pointed to a picture of his grandmother situated behind him during an interview on MLB Network after the announcement, adding that the family member who passed away recently was his life.

On Friday, Abreu further explained how thoughts of her brought about that wave of emotion.

“She was the most beloved person in our family,” Abreu said. “She always supported me. She was everything in my life and in everybody’s life in my family. Getting this award and just thinking about her, what this award would mean for her, it was something that I couldn’t hold back. That’s why this award means what it means for me … and it means a lot.

“I’m still processing it. I was overwhelmed. I’m still processing all that happened yesterday, because as you know, I don’t work or do things to get awards. What happened yesterday was very special. It has been a crazy few hours.”

Even with arguably the best season of his outstanding career behind him, Abreu knows doubters remain. But he’s focused on continued growth for the team and the individual work, with the MVP honor reinforcing that he’s doing things the right way.

There also was a thought back to his beginnings in the United States, as both a resident and a baseball player in 2014. It was a significant challenge after coming from Cuba, but it was a challenge that helped form the player and person he is today.

“Those days were special,” Abreu said. “That's something that I always remember, because you can't forget where you come from. That is something that you have to keep with you. Just thinking about that, thinking about those first challenges, those struggles -- that gives me strength.

“At the same time, that motivates me. I feel blessed to be in this country, this beautiful country that received me with open arms, because this is the most beautiful country in the world. And I'm just glad to be here and to be living the life that I'm living right now.”