DETROIT – Jose Abreu isn’t much into cars, jewelry, big houses or many other things that fame and fortune could deliver to his doorstep.
Baseball, his family and his faith are all he wants. They’re all the White Sox star says he needs, so he’s not the type to be distracted and have his performance affected by the riches the game has afforded him.
His White Sox bosses, including manager Robin Ventura aren’t worried about Abreu getting sidetracked from what’s important to them.
“That’s one of the mature parts about him,’’ Ventura said. “It’s not personal gain or fame or anything like that. He just wants to be a good baseball player and help his team.’’
That became clearly evident in Abreu’s first two spring training experiences and his first full major league season. To know Abreu, to see the player who loves work, respects teammates and stays humble even though he’s been placed on a pedestal is to know the Sox have made a worry-free investment at six years and $68 million on the Cuban slugger. Not only because of his value as a player but also the comfort level they have knowing they’ll probably never get a late-night phone call because Abreu is in trouble.
Abreu is more likely to be home reading his Bible at those hours, something he usually does twice a day.
“My faith is a very important aspect of my life,’’ Abreu said through an interpreter while the Sox were in Cleveland this week. “It has been that way ever since I was a child [growing up in Cuba]. God guides my life in every aspect.’’
Abreu said he leaned on that faith when he and his fiancée, his parents, his sister and her husband were rocking about on a boat on the stormy August night in 2013 when they made their way from Cuba to Haiti, the first leg of a journey that would lead Abreu to the White Sox. It was Abreu who stood strong at the center of the turbulence, holding the group together through the most frightening moments.
“That is absolutely true,’’ Abreu said. “Through all that passed, I feel like God was with me. He guided my way here. I’m glad to be here and say that he guided me and put me in the right spot in the perfect moment.’’
After that, Abreu’s transition to the United States and to major league baseball was about as smooth as could be. He was named the American League Rookie of the Year, won the Silver Slugger Award as the league’s top hitting first baseman and finished fourth in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting. He led all of baseball in slugging percentage.
Abreu made a lot of his hay against the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers, who host the Sox in a three-game series starting Friday afternoon. He batted .389 (28-for-72) with eight doubles, five home runs, 13 RBI and a 1158 OPS against Detroit in 2014.
“He takes pride in a lot of things; he’s a good player,’’ Ventrura said. “He’s a guy who tries to improve. He’s not resting on any laurels from last year. And he continues to do whatever it takes for us to win.’’