He’s the Melk Man in the middle of the White Sox postgame clubhouse victory parties.
After every Sox victory, players sit by their lockers as left fielder Melky Cabrera salutes the stars of the game, citing, in his view, the outstanding performances, plays or pitching contributions that played the biggest part in that day’s victory. It might be something as big as a grand slam by Todd Frazier, or it could be a key out recorded by a relief specialist.
“It could be like, ‘[Austin] Jackson, great defense!’ Or sometimes it’s like 20 people [cited], going around with the whole team,’’ closer David Robertson said. “It’s a half serious, half joking thing that’s a lot of fun for the group.’’
There is laughter, yelling and cheerleading as only Cabrera, the master of ceremonies with a karaoke microphone and speaker (at home games), can bring.
“He’s a ton of fun to have around,’’ right-hander Zach Putnam said. “I can’t imagine being on a team without that guy now. He just brings such a unique element to the clubhouse. He hates to lose, and he will do anything to win and is a team guy but he also knows how to let his hair down and have a good time.’’
Cabrera is part intense competitor, part class clown whose routines after routine catches in left field – freezing a pose for an extra second is just one way – are done to amuse teammates and fans.
“I like to have fun,’’ Cabrera said through translator Billy Russo. “This is a game and I like all the people around me to have fun, too. It’s our jobs and you have to be focused, but it’s a game and you have to enjoy it, and part of that is laughing, making jokes and keeping the atmosphere loose.’’
These Sox are loose, whether they’re chilling to team DJ Brett Lawrie’s diverse mix of pregame music, going through elaborate pregame handshake routines in the dugout, enjoying Cabrera’s postgame awards show in the clubhouse, or slapping hands on the overhead bins to Lawrie’s playing of the “The Hum” by Dimitri Vegas on team charter flights.
“This is a great team, a great group of guys that seems to mesh really well,’’ Robertson said.
While the Cubs’ smoke-and-lights postgame disco parties set a new standard for how to celebrate a W, Cabrera’s Sox thing is unique in its own right. With an assist from right-hand man Dioner Navarro, Cabrera first asks for input from others before naming the stars of the game.
“I wouldn’t think many pro clubs do stuff like that,’’ Putnam said. “I tell people the atmosphere in here is almost like a college team. We really have a lot of fun and enjoy being around each other. There is a lot of positive energy.’’
There are plenty of characters, but as Cabrera says, “I am the clown of the team when we win.
“But in a good way. I name all the guys who help us win the game. I like to do it because it makes everyone feel good and it creates a great atmosphere in the clubhouse. It makes us feel like family.’’
Robertson said last year’s clubhouse was “great,” too. But this year’s, with personalities like Lawrie, Frazier and Navarro – to name a few — added to the mix, has changed the vibe.
Winning – the Sox take an American League best 23-12 record into their game against the New York Yankees Friday – keeps it “humming” along, if you will.
“Everything has been a bit of fresh air,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “There’s more positivity all around in that clubhouse.’’