It seems like a distant memory: White Sox fans were celebrating the acquisition of power-hitting free agent Edwin Encarnación, namely for his potential for 30-plus home run seasons.
With the MLB season on hold with no start date on the horizon, Encarnación and former MLB stars David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez have turned their efforts towards helping their home country of the Dominican Republic, one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus.
“The situation is getting worse,” Encarnación told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. “Here, every player does something for the city where he is from.” In Encarnación’s hometown of La Romana, he’s been busy distributing food to families in need; he mentioned there are 10 cases in La Romana that he knows of. The virus has had devastating effects throughout the whole country; as of right now, there are more than 8,200 confirmed cases, with more than 345 deaths.
“Every player helps his own city, but we wanted to do something together, as one team,” Encarnación said. And that's how the COVID-19 Dominican Republic Initiative, a branch of the Pedro Martinez Foundation, came to existence.
The Initiative consists of over 50 major leaguers from the Dominican Republic, all who have donated both time and money for supplies to fight the virus. Specifically, the Initiative has donated 32,000 KN95 masks for medical staff, 110,000 3-ply face masks for citizens, 7,700 disposable suits for doctors and nurses, 5,000 food kits that would provide families food for two weeks, along with ventilators, test kits, and cleaning supplies. “I am learning a lot from Pedro,” Encarnación said, describing what it’s like to work with Martinez. “He knows how to help people.”
Encarnación is not the only White Sox player in the Initiative; outfielder Nomar Mazara and reliever Kelvin Herrera have joined the cause as well. “We really appreciate what they do for us,” Encarnación said of the Chicago White Sox organization. “In the name of the Dominican people, thank you.”
In these difficult times, the start of the 2020 season is still a question that lingers. "I just want to play," Encarnación said.
When asked how much time he’d need to prepare for the season, Encarnación had an answer ready immediately: “I would be grateful for three weeks.” To prepare himself for when he receives the call to return to baseball, Encarnación has access to his own workout facility, trainers, as well as a baseball academy in Santo Domingo, where he is planning to work out with a handful of other players, albeit safely, in the coming weeks.
While Encarnación is occupied helping those in need at the current moment, baseball is still very much on his mind. “Getting ready, I don’t know what’s going to happen ... but I will be ready whenever I get the call.”