Abreu looks to Clemente's role in community

Slugger nominated for 2017 Clemente Award; relays news that family in Cuba is safe

Abreu looks to Clemente's role in community

CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu couldn't sleep Friday night.

The White Sox first baseman was thinking about his family, split between his hometown of Mal Tiempo in Cuba and in Miami, Florida, with both places being in the path of Hurricane Irma's potential devastation.

Hurricane Irma passed through Mal Tiempo between 3 and 5 a.m. CT, per Abreu, and his family is safe.

"They are good. Thank god, they are good. They are safe. It has been the last couple of hours were very stressful for me," said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. "My grandmother and my kid are there.

"But I could speak with them and they are OK. Now I'm just waiting for the Hurricane to touch base in Miami. My wife is there and I'm just hoping that the Hurricane can take another way."

Abreu's parents are with his wife in Miami. The family did not evacuate before the storm.

"I built a house like a fort just to be aware of that hurricane, that season," Abreu said. "We all know that Miami is a very common place for a hurricane, but they are good and safe now. They are under protection."

Helping others has been a common theme for Abreu, beyond his life as a father, son, husband and grandson. He also has made it a point to give back to the community as one of the most prominent players on the White Sox, earning his second straight nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award.

In 2015, Abreu developed a program called Abreu's Amigos in partnership with Easterseals Academy to provide "regular opportunities for students with special needs to develop social skills in a recreational setting through field trips to the ballpark," per the White Sox nomination of Abreu. Nearly 50 students have visited the ballpark through this program, with an additional 20 students scheduled to visit in 2017. Abreu also provides financial support for the program, including a $10,000 donation to kick it off during a baseball clinic on the school's White Sox Field.

"It means a lot," said Abreu of earning the White Sox' Clemente Award nomination for 2017. "I'm always trying to carry that legacy as best as I can, because that's something that for us, as a player, it has to be very special and important.

"We are here not just to play baseball. We are here also to impact and help other people. In my case, I'm glad to be able to help the kids and I want to thank the White Sox organization, because it has been through them that I was able to reach out to all those kids and at least to give them a little bit of joy to fill that void in their life. I take a lot of pride for that."

Abreu's knowledge of Robert Clemente comes primarily from reading about him. But he knows the impressive legacy created.

"I've read a lot about what he did and not just on the field but in the community," Abreu said. "I have to tell you something: he was special. He was special because of the way that he impacted the community, the way he helped people. I like to help people and especially kids because they are our future. I always like to help them and to bring them a little bit of joy."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.