Kids have lots of questions for Sox
You never know what the White Sox’s youngest fans will ask players during the annual Kids Club Press Conference at SoxFest, but on the flip side you’ll often be surprised by how candid the players’ responses will be. It probably was inevitable one of the kids would ask for players’ opinions about the Astros, who were punished by Major League Baseball this month for running a sign-stealing scheme in 2017, the year they beat the Dodgers to win the World Series. Catcher Yasmani Grandal was a member of the Dodgers then, and pitcher Dallas Keuchel was on the Astros (he publicly apologized for his role in the cheating operation Friday). Both signed with the Sox in the offseason, which means Grandal often will be catching when Keuchel takes the mound. To his credit, Grandal addressed the elephant in the room at McCormick Place West on Saturday, one of the top-10 moments from the kids’ question-andanswer session, moderated by NBC Sports Chicago’s Leila Rahimi and featuring Grandal and outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Nomar Mazara.
1. How do you feel about the Astros?
Catcher Yasmani Grandal: Believe me, I was on the losing side of that (with the Dodgers). They’re like the Patriots of baseball, right? They found a loophole, it worked out, but I think it’s a question that’s going to keep on coming up. And it kind of sucks when you’ve got a guy (Keuchel) that’s here. We spoke. I know exactly how he feels about it. But, hey, it happened and it’s in the past. You can’t really live in the past.
At times we tend to live in the past, so let’s just move forward from that. I know in L.A. there (are) a lot of people that are (ticked off ). I can’t look at ’17 and say, man, they won because of this. You still have to hit the ball, you still have to catch the ball, you still have to pitch. And I have great memories from 2017. That was a great World Series, we took it to seven games.
So, yeah, let’s move on from it. Obviously, they’re a great team, we’re a great team and hopefully we can bump heads this year.
2. Who’s your favorite team to beat? Outfielder Nomar Mazara: My favorite team to beat was the Astros, but now that I’m here it’s got to be the Cubs. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez: We are on the same page.
3. What position do you like to play best in baseball? Grandal: I’ve played third base, I’ve played shortstop. Coming up I was a third baseman and then my dad had the bright idea to put me in to catch, which I hated for the first maybe four years I did it. And then I started understanding the game a little bit more, so I got super excited.
You do have some sort of anger-management issues you need to deal with when you first start catching because you start screaming at everybody and you don’t know why. But I enjoy catching.
If you’re smart, you become a pitcher. It gets paid way more and you do way less.
4. Do you like skiing or sledding better? Grandal: I kind of enjoy sledding just because I have a 2-year-old boy and he likes to be active and he loves sledding too. So sledding would probably be No. 1, but I enjoy snowboarding so hopefully maybe in six years we can pick that up.
Jimenez: We don’t have snow in the Dominican, so …
5. What’s your favorite animal?
Grandal: I’ve got two dogs — doesn’t mean I really like ’em.
I got a big Great Dane I love. I got him my first year in the big leagues. Then I have a Chiweenie (a Chihuahua-Daschund mix) who I really hate. It’s my daughter’s dog and she has no idea what she’s doing.
But I grew up with a lot of animals especially around Cuba — pigs, chickens, geese — so as long as I can remember I was being chased by chickens at some point, which is pretty funny because my little boy was chased the other day by a chicken, so that was funny. Jimenez: I like tigers.
6. What’s your favorite part about catching? Grandal: I don’t think there’s a favorite part about catching. Being a catcher you have to have a certain mindset; a little bit crazy.
Jimenez: Not a little bit — a lot. Mazara: These guys work all the days. They have a lot of work they do every day, it’s crazy.
Grandal: You do get hit with a lot of balls. Whether that’s in your foot, inner thigh, it hurts.
You’ve got to deal with a lot of different personalities. You almost have to be a psychologist when it comes to being a catcher, that’s why you’re a little bit crazy. I kind of enjoy the whole aspect of being a catcher. I like school, so I tend to read a lot of books. I’ve read plenty of psychology books.
7. Why did you join the White Sox?
Grandal: When you get to the position I got to be in and you start looking and you kind of have an idea of what you want to do — and I wasn’t really thinking about this year or the next year — I was just looking in the long run. I’m pretty competitive, but at the same time, my mom’s a teacher (so) I like to teach a little bit and I like to learn a lot.
Once I started to look at the White Sox, and kind of I guess digging deeper into it learning about the players, here was an organization that throughout the big leagues you don’t really look at just because you’ve got a lot of young guys and you have no idea what they have in mind with them; you don’t know who’s coming up.
And as I started looking into it, you started to see all the talent that is already here in the big leagues and (coming) in the future. I just saw an opportunity to kind of show those guys how to go about themselves once they got to the big leagues. And having these guys around and creating that culture everybody’s talking about, that was very exciting for me. After that it was a pretty easy decision for me.
The cool thing is before I signed with the White Sox they were pretty much locked in. I asked my wife, I said, “Of these three cities, which do you like best?” She said, “I love Chicago.” I said, “All right, that kind of makes the decision a little easier.” I started looking into it, started talking to (general manager) Rick (Hahn) a lot, trying to see the direction that they were going in.
Obviously, I’ve known (Ricky) Renteria since I got to San Diego; he was our bench coach there. So I loved the fact that Ricky was the manager. So it just seemed to be a perfect fit for me.
8. How did you pick your number?
Grandal: There’s a lot of things that go into picking a number. At times you don’t have a say. If you get traded as a minor leaguer and you make it to the big leagues they just give you whatever number you got. … I’ve been lucky enough to have numbers that I’ve played with in the past that I’ve picked. Jimenez: Mine, because I played winter ball in the Dominican, was 74. And I felt good to say that’s a lucky number.
9. Who’s your best friend on an opposing team? Jimenez: If I have to pick … one is here, it’s Edwin Encarnacion. And the second one is Rafael Devers. Oh, three, sorry — and Nomar.
Mazara: If I have to pick I would say Joey Gallo and my guy (Jimenez).
10. (For Jimenez): Why is your nickname the Big Baby? Grandal: He’s a big baby.
Jimenez: It’s because I’m tall and I (am) 23 years old.
Grandal: In the minor leagues when he struck out he used to cry a lot, so they called him a baby.
Mazara: Is that true?
Jimenez: That’s a secret.