CHICAGO -- Jose Contreras was working out recently when he received a call from White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams to rejoin the organization as a team ambassador."I was almost in shock," Contreras said through interpreter Billy Russo during a Friday conference call following the official announcement. "I had
CHICAGO -- Jose Contreras was working out recently when he received a call from White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams to rejoin the organization as a team ambassador.
"I was almost in shock," Contreras said through interpreter Billy Russo during a Friday conference call following the official announcement. "I had to discuss it with my family, and we're ready to do it because it's a very good opportunity.
"Baseball is my life. I've been around it for 30 years."
The White Sox also announced A.J. Pierzynski and Hall of Famer Tim Raines as part of Friday's new ambassador trio, joining Harold Baines, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, Mike Huff, Bo Jackson, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Donn Pall, Dan Pasqua and Mike Squires. Team ambassadors make appearances on behalf of the organization and serve as team representatives in the community and throughout baseball.
"It's always good to have former White Sox back and looking to contribute," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said of the new ambassadors. "It's a testament to their time here and their loyalty to [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and appreciation to him."
"I'm looking forward to it," said Raines, who played five years for the White Sox and coached for two years, joining Contreras and Pierzynski as part of the 2005 World Series championship team. "Being a part of an organization after being a player is sort of giving back, giving back to the game, giving back to some of the players that are trying to reach their goal as far as being Major Leaguers. I feel like that's my way of giving back."
Contreras' role runs deeper within the organization. The 46-year-old will do work on the baseball side and spend time in the Minor Leagues with some of the club's Latin players to help in their acclimation to being pro players in the states.
This job already has been achieved unofficially by Contreras, who served as a mentor to Cuban countrymen Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo while playing for the White Sox. Contreras had two years of big league experience before his '05 season, which stands as the best of his career. Contreras credits that development, in part, to the presence of fellow Cuban Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez guiding him in the rotation.
Cuban natives Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert all hold significant roles in the current White Sox rebuild.
"When I left the island, I spent 11 years after I was able to come back," Contreras said. "My dad died and I had to bury him by phone. I wasn't able to come back there to be with him or with my family at that time. It's hard for everybody.
"But the guys from Japan or the guys from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, once the season ends, they could go back to their country. For us as Cubans, we couldn't and that made the process even tougher for us.
"Having people who can understand that is going to help all those young guys in trying to make adjustments as easy as possible. I'm excited just to be with them and try to share my knowledge."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.