Slugging first baseman picks up hardware during pregame ceremony
By Jesse Sanchez
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu's life off the field has changed dramatically since he left Cuba as one of the island's most celebrated baseball stars in the summer of 2013. His play on the field has stayed the same.
You can argue he's actually become a better player.
"There are no words to describe how much my life is different now," Abreu said in Spanish. "Everything is different now. But I've been able to adjust with the support of the people who have been by my side and this team. Everyone has helped me adjust and I'm extremely grateful for those who have been there for me."
The White Sox first baseman received his GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) Award for being the 2014 Rookie of the Year at U.S. Cellular Field during a special pregame presentation on Sunday. The trophy was another reminder of just how far the slugger has come in such a short time and foreshadows his potential for the future.
Abreu also received his American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the Silver Slugger Award and Baseball America's Major League Baseball Player of the Year during the presentation.
"These are moments that I never expected to have in my life, but it's beautiful, and I'm going to enjoy them," Abreu said. "I'm just grateful to my teammates, my family, the fans and everyone who supports the White Sox. I'm very blessed and thank God for allowing me to be healthy and live my dream."
Abreu left his family and friends behind when he defected from Cuba almost two years ago. At the time, he was earning less than $20 a month. Now, he's a multimillionaire.
"I don't have any personal goals, other than to stay healthy the entire year," Abreu said. "I just want to play every day and do what I can to help the White Sox win. My personal results are great, but it's about the team."
The GIBBYs are presented by MLB.com and represent the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season. The votes are based on input from broadcasters, reporters, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This season, Abreu has five doubles with five home runs and 13 RBIs in his first 16 games, entering play on Sunday. He has 15 hits, including four home runs and 12 RBIs, in his last 10 games to lift his batting average to .317 and his slugging percentage to .667.
"Last year was a great year," Abreu said. "The most difficult part of it all was we as a team were not able to accomplish our goals and do what we have to do as a group. The awards are a blessing, but what we do as a team is what is most important for me."
Abreu is off to another memorable start -- and this time he is playing with his family cheering him from the stands in Chicago. But last season is something he will never forget.
The first baseman signed a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox and all he did was set a new single-season rookie franchise record for homers. He batted .317 with 176 hits, 35 doubles, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs, a .581 slugging percentage and a .383 on-base percentage in 145 games during the 2014 season.
In addition to his unanimous selection as the AL Rookie of the Year by the BBWAA, the Sporting News and Players Choice awarded him the AL's top rookie honors. Abreu was the first rookie in baseball history to rank among the top five in his league in each Triple Crown category.
"This game is not easy. It will never be easy, no matter how many years you play," said Abreu, who finished fourth in the 2014 AL Most Valuable Player voting. "It's like life, there are rarely things that come easy in life. But you just keep working hard and growing and trying to get better."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.