As son takes up game, Moncada reflects on dad

June 21st, 2020

CHICAGO -- When White Sox third baseman first saw his 5-year-old son, Robinson, playing baseball, he had a flashback to his own days as a youngster in the sport, playing with his father, Manuel Moncada Rodriguez, in Cuba.

“I just imagined the first time that my dad saw me playing and how proud he felt,” said Moncada, through interpreter Billy Russo, during a recent interview. “I felt the same way when I saw Robinson playing the first time. He really loves the game, and he’s always doing baseball-related stuff.”

Moncada’s father introduced him to baseball, and he was actually a better player at the high school and collegiate level than the current Major Leaguer, but never played in the Serie Nacional. The elder Moncada reached a point where it became a choice between baseball or different career path, and he chose to become an engineer.

“He’s very smart,” Moncada said. “He taught me all that he knows about baseball. He was the one who guided me to my first steps in the sport and he has always been there with me or for me, just giving me advice and teaching me when I first started playing baseball. He’s been a very important person throughout my career.”

That career has Moncada poised as an American League Most Valuable Player contender following a breakout 2019 campaign and agreeing to a five-year, $70 million deal with the White Sox during Spring Training. The switch-hitter finished with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go with 25 home runs, 34 doubles, 83 runs scored, 79 RBIs and a 141 OPS+ in ’19, while he also made a smooth transition defensively from second base to third.

Success somewhat eluded Moncada in his 2018 full-season debut, when he totaled 217 strikeouts. But in the good times and the bad, Moncada’s father still gives him advice and still teaches him all he can, even if it’s through a phone call at this point. He has yet to see Moncada play in person with the White Sox as he remains in Cuba, but Moncada hopes that situation changes soon.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to bring him here to have the chance to see me play in a Major League ballpark,” Moncada said. “He has seen me play here, but just through videos. He’s very humble and proud of me of all the things I’ve been doing.”

The youngest Moncada’s baseball dedication is evident by videos of his swing that the soon-to-be 6-year-old posts on Twitter. As for who had more talent at such a young age, Moncada sides with his son.

“Robinson, no doubt about it,” Moncada said with a laugh. “I encouraged him to do what he wants to do, and he wants to play baseball right now. I hope that love for the game and the fire will stick with him and he sticks with that, because I know he’s going to be a great talent, and I know he will have great success and might be a superstar.”