Chicago White Sox's Encarncion goes to bat for Dominican Republic
Before he helps the White Sox with his bat, Edwin Encarnacion is taking a swing at assisting his native Dominican Republic during the coronavirus pandemic.
On a phone call with Dominican legends Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Jose Bautista, Encarnacion floated an idea to raise money.
"I (said), if we could have a group of players we can come together to help our country because they need it right now," Encarnacion said on a conference call Wednesday. "I told them I could start a group in WhatsApp and try to get every number I could get and put them together in one group and we can start from there. That's how everything came together. And we have over 50 players already in that group."
Through the Pedro Martinez Foundation, the COVID-19 Dominican Republic Initiative was launched. More than $1 million already has been raised to purchase ventilators, face masks, disposable suits, test kits, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and food.
"Right now in the Dominican, it's not good," Encarnacion said. "It's getting worse. The impact that we've been having, we've bought over 1,000 kits of food for the people here. We give it to different cities in the Dominican Republic, different players, so they can give that food for the people who need it."
Helping out in a time of need is nothing new for Encarnacion and the group of Dominican players he helped assemble.
"Here in the Dominican, every player does something for the city where he's from," Encarnacion said. "I'm from La Romana. I've been doing a lot of different stuff, giving food to the people around my city in La Romana. Everybody, like Robinson Cano doing stuff in San Pedro de Macoris, Albert Pujols doing his city, there's a lot of players doing different stuff.
"But this thing is something like a group, a group of players from the Dominican Republic, that idea comes from me. I know everybody has been doing something in their city, but I want to do something together. Everybody together in one team so we can collect more money and we can give more things, more supplies to those who need it.
"Like the doctors, medical staff, people who need food. Everybody together in one thing, so we can collect more money and we can help more people."
Encarnacion also is receiving assistance from the White Sox in the fundraising effort.
"I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to the Chicago organization because they are part of this group," he said. "We really appreciate what they do for us and every Dominican wants to say thanks in the name of the Dominican people. I want to say thanks to the Chicago organization for helping us."
After signing a one-year, $12 million contract in December -- the deal also has a $12 million club option for 2021 -- Encarnacion was looking forward to filling the White Sox's gaping hole at designated hitter.
A veteran of 15 major-league seasons with the Yankees, Mariners, Indians, Reds and Blue Jays, the 37-year-old Encarnacion ranks third among active players with 414 home runs.
The right-hander has been hitting in a cage on his family farm and is working with a personal trainer.
Encarnacion also has a baseball academy in Santo Domingo and he's looking forward to working out with a larger group of players, as early as next week.
"I've been getting ready," Encarnacion said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I've been working and doing the things I need to do for being ready for whenever I get the call. I'm still waiting for what they are going to say, when we are going to go there to start the season. I just want to play and I'm ready to play and we are waiting to see what's going to happen."
There has been speculation major-league teams will begin a second spring training, as early as June 10.
How long will it take players to get ready?
"It isn't going to take more than three weeks," Encarnacion said. "If they give us three weeks, I think I'd be grateful."