Kids have lots of ques­tions for Sox

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - WHITE SOX - By Phil Thomp­son

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.

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