The bar was dark, empty and soundless, with the exception of the occasional crack of the pool table near the back. I approached the bartender, he tried to avoid eye contact. I stared straight at him until he acquiesced with a simple nod of the head motioning towards a guy sitting alone at the far end of the bar.
I walked towards the man. He was dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt, flip flops and matching black socks. Enrapt by his phone, I startled him when I sidled up next to him. He turned around the phone, so I could see. My mind flipped, the video was mesmerizing. The man quickly snatched the phone from my hands.
“Tomorrow, you come. You’ll see.”
OK so I was having a little fun with the cloak and dagger routine surrounding the play of Luis Robert, but he has been a bit of mystery to White Sox fans. After signing him last May, Robert was tucked away in the Dominican Summer League where a few low-end videos surfaced. Other than that all anyone outside the team had to go on was a jaw-dropping signing bonus, mind-boggling batting practice sessions, and an intriguing Instagram account.
Robert in live games was finally unveiled last week as he has played in a number of spring training contests. And he didn’t disappoint.
FutureSox writer Kim Contreras was on hand for the hitters' camp held in January as well as some recent Cactus League games. Here’s what she had to say:
"There is so much to like about Luis Robert. At the exclusive Hitting Camp in January, among a group of elite hitters who also have power, he was the youngest of the group, but you'd never tell by watching him. He won't be 21 until August. I intentionally didn't identify who he was before the camp; I didn't want to be swayed. But he was so good; his hands were so quick and had such power, there was no hiding who he was.
"His arm is strong and accurate; and his work ethic is quite impressive. He's entered [Spring] games usually in the later innings, when the high Arizona sky and bright sun are at their worst. Robert is focused on finding a way to see the ball off the bat. And keep in mind, these are big league spring training games, in the stadiums.
"Think about the fact that these are his first games in the U.S., and he's in major league camp. It's not just his ability to hit or play the field, in general, it's the speed with which the game is played in the states, and he is showing virtually no drag in development. That, of all things, is the most impressive to me.
"When he connects, the power is real. And yes, he is young - chronologically and developmentally, but he has a great support system and though it's not something to quantify, it may be the biggest difference-maker. I challenge everyone who watches him, during even one AB, to stop and think of how his young life has changed in the last 9 months. It really is impressive."
Robert has also caught the attention of national writers such as Fanrag Sports' Jon Heyman who tweeted:
Scouts are absolutely raving about chisox prospect Luis Robert. That team has more 4-star prospects than anyone. (Yanks, padres, braves just behind)
The accolades extend beyond scribes. In a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times. White Sox Roving Instructor Aaron Rowand said, ‘‘He’s a five-tool guy. He’s athletic, has great speed, a great arm. Really good hands. Hands-y in the outfield. Covers a lot of ground. Works hard. Has a lot of power, a lot of pop. And he has a short, simple, good swing. And he’s young. When he fills out, he’s going to be even bigger and stronger than he already is.’’
In another Sun Times article First Base Coach Daryl Boston had this to say: “Defensively, Robert is going to be special. He can run, he has great instincts and he has great hands out there. It’s just a matter of getting the reps. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to Robert, and he’s going to be good.”
Robert has been impressive offensively, highlighted by ripping a double into the left field corner off the L.A. Dodgers nearly untouchable closer - Kenley Jansen. He followed that up with a steal of third base, and later he beat out an infield single, putting his speed on display.
There have also been a few of the hiccups you’d expect from someone seeing his first action. There was a collision on an attempted steal of second base that caused some concern. He left the game but passed all the concussion tests and is just fine. A few days later he collided with Jacob May on a routine fly ball in the outfield. But these can be chalked up to the newness of the terrain that Robert is now inhabiting.
No more poorly shot videos of Robert. The sunlight is shining on him now. That phrase is typically used in reference to exposure of wrongdoing. Luis Robert though, is doing just about everything right.
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