5-tool talent Robert offers more than just on-field stardom

July 10th, 2023

Ask anyone to discuss and a number of descriptive terms come to mind regarding the massive value provided by the White Sox center fielder.

Five-tool talent. Prolific hitter. Prolific slugger. Gold Glove defender. How about All-Star for the first time in his career?

But a clubhouse comedian or humorist, of sorts? Well, that’s a new one attached to the 25-year-old Cuban native.

“If you asked everyone in that clubhouse who’s the funniest guy, the vast majority of them would say Luis Robert,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

“I agree with Rick. He’s one of the funnier guys on the team,” said third baseman Jake Burger, who has developed a solid camaraderie with Robert during Burger’s first full Major League season. “He’s hilarious. He’ll have all these one-liners just out of nowhere that are super funny. It’s been really fun getting to know him throughout the year.”

Robert understands English, although he does his interviews in Spanish with the assistance of interpreter Billy Russo, who is with Robert in Seattle for the Home Run Derby. He’s a low-key individual who will flash a smile or a quizzical look at a question he might think is a little bizarre, but he’s often joking around with his teammates in the pregame clubhouse.

Talk of this fun fostered by Robert should not supersede his intense work ethic. It’s that process, along with being healthy and being able to play on a daily basis, helping Robert overcome an April where he slashed .213/.254/.407 with 33 strikeouts and four walks.

“He’s a top five player in the game, a top five talent in the game,” Burger said. “So, if he just keeps doing what he’s doing … He doesn’t take a day off. He works as hard as he can every single day.”

“From the time we first signed him, the tools were off the charts. He was a special, special athlete. What has got him to this level and close to fulfilling that superstar potential we all saw originally in him has been the work he’s done,” Hahn said. “He has been extremely dedicated both in terms of improving his offensive approach at the plate, but also in terms of his defensive work.”

Hahn pointed out the assistance and guidance provided across the board by the White Sox coaching staff, beginning in the offseason when hitting coach José Castro and Major League field coordinator Mike Tosar worked with Robert at his Florida home. The White Sox slugger also began to show his leadership during that time, taking rookie Oscar Colás under his wing and working with the left-handed hitting outfielder on a daily basis.

When Colás was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on May 2 after originally breaking camp with the team, Robert talked to him every day until Colás returned on July 4.

“I’m just trying to follow the footprints people like [José] Abreu and Eloy [Jiménez] taught me when I got here,” said Robert through Russo. “I try to honor that. Just doing the right things, and I definitely try to do that with Colás.”

“It’s very important,” said Hahn of Robert’s connection with Colás. “That’s one of the things that hopefully over time, as his star continues to rise, people will be able to get to know Luis a little bit better.”

Oscar Colás (L) and Luis Robert Jr. (R) talking before a White Sox game

On-field results from the first half of the 2023 season certainly won't be overlooked for Robert. Even in a disappointing stretch for the team as a whole, Robert has put himself in American League Most Valuable Player contention, with 26 home runs -- ranking him second in the AL behind MVP favorite Shohei Ohtani (32).

Then there’s Robert’s humorous side, which might go hand in hand with a player who feels comfortable in his stardom.

“I consider myself just a regular person,” said Robert with a laugh. “I just try to keep the good vibes here around the clubhouse.”

“Hopefully that personality, as his comfort level with himself and with media or expressing himself publicly comes across more or grows in the coming years, people will really get to know how special an individual he really is,” Hahn said. “He’s a mentor to his teammates, especially the younger ones, with great work ethic and a great sense of humor.”