Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Abreu's dream: To sing God Bless America

@scottmerkin
January 26, 2020

CHICAGO -- There will be a special performance of "God Bless America" during one of the seventh inning stretches at White Sox home games in the near future if José Abreu's plan comes to fruition. This particular rendition will come from the Latin American White Sox players, as expressed by

CHICAGO -- There will be a special performance of "God Bless America" during one of the seventh inning stretches at White Sox home games in the near future if José Abreu's plan comes to fruition.

This particular rendition will come from the Latin American White Sox players, as expressed by Abreu during a "Los White Sox" seminar done primarily in Spanish with the assistance of interpreter Billy Russo at SoxFest on Saturday. In a talk with MLB.com later that day at McCormick Place West, Abreu explained his thought process behind making it happen.

“It means a lot. It’s just a little thing I can do to show my respect for this country,” said Abreu through Russo. “How thankful I am for the way that the people have been welcoming me.

“That’s just a little sign of respect for the country and for the American people. Like I said, they respect us, and we have to respect them. We respect their culture and the way they received us and welcomed us.”

Abreu actually gave a glimpse of what the version might sound like by singing a few lines of "God Bless America" in front of a capacity crowd Saturday. He joked later about singing a little bit when he’s in the shower to keep learning and memorizing the lyrics.

Luis Robert, the No. 3 prospect overall in MLB Pipeline’s newest rankings and a fellow Cuban, joined Abreu on the panel. So did Leury García, who was the one of the three players fluent in English and Spanish, but in talking with Abreu over the course of SoxFest, it was clear the first baseman's English had become more polished.

Interviews with Abreu are still done with Russo’s assistance, although Abreu’s tone and feeling can be understood simply by watching his forthright mannerisms. But Abreu turned to audio tapes this offseason to improve his mastery of English, based partially on his two young sons’ command of the language.

“My oldest, he already speaks very good English, and my youngest is already speaking in English,” Abreu said. “I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I can’t understand what they are saying. I know that I need to improve my language and my speaking.”

One fan asked Abreu Saturday for his favorite Chicago dining spot, and he smiled and responded to all of them. He pointed out the quality of restaurants in Chicago didn’t exist in Cuba, nor did the free opportunity to go wherever you wanted whenever you wanted.

And ultimately, life is about respect for Abreu, making the best out of this opportunity given to him. It helps explain why the White Sox first baseman receives so much respect in return.

“All I know is he seems to be what you want in a veteran guy,” White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “It’s kind of exciting for me. I’ve heard about him for a long time.

“He’s known to be a hard worker and it kind of shows on the field. The fact that every year he’s coming in and still trying to get better, that gives me a reason to come in every year and try to do better.”

God bless America, land that I love. Those are the words Abreu and his teammates soon could be singing, coming straight from the heart.

“Honestly, I’m just following my mom’s desire, my mom’s guidance,” Abreu said. “She always told me to be thankful and to appreciate what we have. Every time I have a chance to show that, I’m doing it. But that’s just the way I was raised.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.