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Cuban tradition is past, present and future for White Sox

Jose Abreu (left) and the late Minnie Minoso.

Welcome to the club, Luis Robert.

What essentially began with Minnie Minoso, the trailblazing ‘‘Cuban Comet’’ and the first black player to wear a White Sox uniform, is still flourishing.

A long, proud history of Cubans on the South Side — 18 in all — took hold with Minoso, the only player ever known as ‘‘Mr. White Sox.’’ There were many more after him — from the under-the-radar Sandy Consuegra, who went 16-3 with a 2.69 ERA during his All-Star season in 1954; to the over-the-radar Jose Canseco, who finished his career by hitting 16 home runs for the Sox in 2001; to right-handers Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, who played prominent roles on the 2005 World Series championship team.

It carried on with shortstop Alexei Ramirez from 2008 to 2015 and first baseman Jose Abreu from 2014 to the present.

And now the Cuban banner is displayed as a significant sign of the Sox’ future, with highly-paid prospects Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert in place as key components in a rebuilding plan that is restoring hope in a franchise that has struggled since its 2005 title.

If all goes well, Moncada this season will become the 19th Cuban to wear a Sox uniform and Robert will become the 20th down the road.

Moncada, who is expected to be the Sox’ second baseman for years to come, is regarded as a top-three prospect in baseball. It cost the Red Sox $61 million to sign him out of Cuba, but the White Sox pried him away in a trade for left-hander Chris Sale. During spring training, the Sox put his locker next to that of Abreu, a slugger whose character and leadership rival the impact of his bat.

Abreu and Moncada did their share to keep the Cuban train rolling by speaking to Robert on video, selling the five-tool outfielder on the Sox’ Cuban history and the way the organization made them feel welcome and special.

‘‘There is no one more happy to see more Cuban players coming to this team than me,’’ Abreu said through an interpreter Wednesday.

Abreu is the first to acknowledge the franchise-record six-year, $68 million contract the Sox gave him in 2013 made him feel most welcome. And Robert, who will cost the Sox close to $50 million after luxury taxes are incurred, certainly followed the money when he agreed to come to the South Side. But the Cuban connection at 35th and Shields didn’t hurt.

‘‘Alexei was a big factor for me,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘He called me and he talked to me about the tradition of this team with the Cubans. The way he explained how this organization is with the Cubans and traditions, that was a factor.’’

Abreu, whose journey from Cuba to the United States was fraught with personal and family challenges, difficulty and stress, was willing to spread the word about his comfort level with the Sox, who have been extremely helpful, he said.

‘‘I experienced that here,’’ he said. ‘‘And now that I have the opportunity to share and do the same with Moncada or somebody else [Robert], I consider it an honor. This is a team that really takes care of us as Cuban players and as Latino players.’’

Before Minoso died in 2015, Abreu said he was like an adoptive father figure.

‘‘This adoptive family of the White Sox really helped him and eased the transition,’’ said Minoso’s 28-year-old son, Charlie Rice-Minoso.

Proud of his heritage and active with the Sox till the day he died, Minoso would have loved seeing Moncada and Robert join the

Cuban parade.

‘‘I think it’s more coincidental than anything,’’ Rice-Minoso said of Moncada and Robert as part of the plan. ‘‘But it’s great to see that secret sauce they’ve created the last couple of years, of kind of understanding better the talent that’s been coming their way and how to connect and communicate at basic levels on and off the field, which relates well with a player as they’re cultivating and refining their talent.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Cuban-born White Sox:

Jose Acosta, 1922

Luis Aloma, 1950-53

Minnie Minoso, 1951-57, ‘60-61, ‘64, ‘76, ‘80

Willie Miranda, 1952

Hector Rodriguez, 1952

Mike Fornieles, 1953-56

Sandy Consuegra, 1953-56

Rudy Arias, 1959

Aurelio Monteagudo, 1967

Leo Sutherland, 1980-81

Nelson Santovenia, 1992

Jose Canseco, 2001

Jose Contreras, 2004-09

Orlando Hernandez, 2005

Alexei Ramirez, 2008-15

Dayan Viciedo, 2010-14

Adrian Nieto, 2014

Jose Abreu, 2014-present

NOTE: Right-hander Tyler Danish will be added to the roster as a 26th man for the White Sox’ doubleheader Friday against the Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field. Danish will pitch Game 2.

TIGERS AT WHITE SOX

Friday doubleheader: Buck Farmer (2017 debut) vs. Mike Pelfrey (1-4, 4.85 ERA), 4:10 p.m., CSN, 890-AM.

Matthew Boyd (2-4, 5.36) vs. Tyler Danish (2017 debut), 7:10 p.m., CSN, 890-AM.

Saturday: Michael Fulmer (5-2, 2.55) vs. Derek Holland (4-3, 2.47), 1:10 p.m., CSN, 890-AM.

Sunday: Jordan Zimmermann (4-3, 5.86) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (3-5, 4.55), 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 890-AM.

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