Want to feel old?
Juan Uribe has a son old enough to sign with the White Sox as an international free agent.
Yes, it’s my displeasure to report that your No. 5 Uribe jersey from the team’s World Series season – gulp – 18 years ago might get new life if the former White Sox infielder’s son, who was born in Chicago during his dad’s time on the South Side, realizes his dream of playing Major League Baseball just like his pops.
“I think there’s a big chance he can make it to the majors and that he can be an even better player than I was,” the elder Uribe said Monday night. “I truly believe that. And as a father, that’s what you want. You don’t want your kid to be just like you, you want your kid to be better than you.”
“It’s definitely an honor and a privilege to be part of the Chicago White Sox organization now, an organization I always wanted to play with,” Uribe Jr. said. “I was born in Chicago, and I wanted to play with the White Sox. I wanted to do something similar to what (Vladimir Guerrero) Jr. did. He was born in Canada, and now he’s playing for the Blue Jays. I wanted to do something like that.”
Uribe Jr. is just 16 years old, so there’s a long way to go before determining whether the White Sox got it right in welcoming in the legacy infielder – he plays up the middle, just like dad – as part of their international-signing class.
That waiting game was a sort of theme this year, the team announcing the first seven signees of the session Monday, all of them teenagers. There’s no Oscar Colás or Yoelqui Céspedes, big-money Cuban stars who are on the fast track to the big leagues. Those guys were each the top-rated player in their respective signing class. The White Sox’ highest rated player this time around is a 17-year-old Dominican pitcher named Luis Reyes, the No. 41 player in MLB.com’s rankings.
Reyes might be the headlining member of the just-announced batch of players – special assistant to the general manager Marco Paddy said there would be more signings, specifically out of Venezuela, to announce soon – but he wasn’t the one grabbing the headlines. Uribe Jr. taking center stage thanks to his status as the son of a former South Sider said something about the immediate impact of this group.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll never hear these names again, and that international free-agent signings have been such a central focus of the White Sox as they’ve tried to remake their farm system means they’ll be placing importance on these prospects moving forward.
Keeping that in mind, that the international free-agent market is likely to remain integral to the team’s long-term plans, maybe this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the elder Uribe, either.
In addition to sending his own son to the White Sox on Monday, Uribe also celebrated the team inking 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Albert Alberto, who was plucked out of Uribe’s training academy in the D.R.
“We spent a lot of time at (Uribe’s) complex,” Paddy said. “He talks to those kids about his experience. He’s making positive strides and helping those kids understand what professional baseball is all about. He preaches that every day when he’s there. Not only this year but in the years coming, he’s concentrating on the kids in his area. … He’s getting those kids at an early age, and he’s doing very good work with those kids. … He speaks about his experience with the White Sox.
“He’s got dorms. He’s got a stadium that he built right in the middle of Nizao (in the Dominican Republic). He holds about 15 to 20 guys that sleep there, they work from there, they go to school from there. It’s going to be something to see because in the next couple of years, he’s got guys lined up that he’s already working with for the upcoming classes. … He’s involved with the community. He’s involved with the community kids. But he’s also heavily involved in teaching them the right way to play baseball.”
It might strike as somewhat counter-intuitive that the guy famed for not being able to remember any of his White Sox teammates’ names is now raising the next generation of Dominican players. But Uribe can already point to some results.
“We’ve been helping them become real baseball players,” Uribe said. “And now – this is just our second year – in two years we’ve been able to sign four players. In just two years, to sign four players with major league organizations? That’s huge. In that short period of time, to sign four players, that’s good. That’s very good for us.
“In my academy, we are like a family. All the kids there are like my kids, part of my family. I go there with them, I play with them, I eat with them – I eat the same kind of food that they eat – we do all the same stuff, all together. … I like to be inclusive with all of them. I like to be part of their routines. That’s what we like, is to build that family culture there.
“(Alberto) is one of them, and I feel very proud of him, too. He’s like my son, like all the rest of the guys there, too.”
So make it two more Uribe family members, then, now counting themselves as White Sox.
The easy joke would be to say Paddy and the White Sox have found their latest pipeline. After having so much success landing talent out of Cuba – Monday’s group included 17-year-old Cuban third baseman Rafael Álvarez – their next frontier is perhaps the Uribe academy.
But such a flippant comment would overlook the seriousness of Uribe’s endeavor. And the seriousness of his love for Chicago.
“Nothing against any other team I played with, but I played with the Chicago White Sox and it was a great time in my career,” Uribe said. “I made a promise I would like him to sign with the Chicago White Sox and be part of the Chicago White Sox. To me, that was important, and that was why I said before that this is a dream come true.
“I always talked to him about my time with the White Sox and how important my time with them was to my career and just how Chicago feels like home to me. … Chicago is very special for me. I remember a time I came back to Chicago after all those years that I was away, and I was playing with the Indians, and I came back to Chicago and the people welcomed me with open arms and with a lot of love. That’s something that made me feel very good and very happy. It made me feel just like home.
“I want my son to feel that, to experience that, to have the emotions that I had when I played with the White Sox and just feel how people treat you there. It’s just like a family. Being in Chicago and being with the White Sox is like being a part of a family. I loved that, and I just feel it’s the right fit for him. I know the people of Chicago are going to take good care of him, and as a father, that’s what you want.”
If it’s good enough for his son, maybe it’s good enough for those he considers his sons.
Maybe the White Sox have found a new partner, of sorts, in an old friend. It’s nothing but speculation, of course, as Uribe will surely point his players in the best direction for them to realize their big league dreams.
But in a field where relationships mean a ton, it can’t hurt for the White Sox to have a good one as they eye the next generation of talent, of players and of family members in the Dominican Republic.