Red Sox outfielders Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran will soon be heading out to Arizona to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. To mark the occasion, manager Alex Cora instructed the pair to give a presentation on the country to the rest of their teammates on Monday.
As part of that presentation, a five-piece mariachi band performed inside the clubhouse and later on while players stretched and played catch on the field. They even played Verdugo’s walk-up song, “Volver, Volver” by Vicente Fernandez.
Verdugo, whose father Joe is from Mexico, took charge of the assignment. The 26-year-old put together an informational poster board that included facts about the country’s history, the origins of its flag, and some of its most accomplished baseball stars like Fernando Valenzuela and Vinny Castilla.
“It was on, I think Friday, when we got hit with it,” Verdugo told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) on Monday. “AC had a meeting and at the end of it, asked me and Duran to do a presentation on Mexico. I just got the ball rolling and obviously I knew I had to make a poster with some facts on it. But I think the big thing that kind of got everybody excited was having the mariachi band here.”
Verdugo was then asked how one goes about finding a mariachi band in southwest Florida?
“Google. You just Google them and we found them,” Verdugo said of the group, Mariachi Villa de Guadalupe. “They were out of Cape Coral. They were able to drive out here and help me out. It was great. They were great, honestly. I was a little nervous, obviously being in Fort Myers and I was like, ‘I hope they’re good,’ you know what I mean? But they were great and it came out really good.”
Verdugo said he began working on the poster following Sunday’s 7-6 Grapefruit League win over the Rays at JetBlue Park. While most veteran players will head home as soon as they are subbed out during spring games, Verdugo — who played the first five innings on Sunday — remained at the Fenway South complex well into the evening.
“I didn’t leave here until 6 p.m.,” said Verdugo. “I was taking advantage of the printers and everything that they have here. It was hard work, but it felt good and it was rewarding to kind of see the guys, the clubhouse, everybody, just really enjoy it. It was fun.”
Though he certainly does not lack confidence on the field, Verdugo did acknowledge that he felt some angst building up before and during the oral part of the presentation.
“Yeah, I felt so nervous. I don’t usually mind talking in front of the group if it’s all just jokes and fun. But as soon as I had to be a little bit serious, my heart was racing,” he said. “I was more nervous there than I was in the postseason or any type of baseball atmosphere.”
Verdugo, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts trade three years ago, is preparing for his fourth season with the Red Sox. Despite the fact that he is still two-plus months shy of turning 27, he is already the fourth-longest tenured player on the team behind only Chris Sale, Rafael Devers, and Ryan Brasier.
“Dugie, he’s been here since ’20,” Cora said. “He’s an important part of what we’re trying to accomplish and you see what he’s done physically and where he’s at.”
Duran, meanwhile, undertook a supporting role in the presentation before going 2-for-2 with a double and home run in Monday’s 4-1 win victory over the Twins to kick off the 2023 Chairman’s Cup. Like Verdugo, the 26-year-old Duran’s father, Octavio, hails from Mexico.
“We did our part. [Verdugo] did a lot of the research,” said Duran. “I just had a little acting skit going. I was doing some acting on the side.”
Regarding Duran and the presentation as a whole, Cora remarked: “Obviously Jarren is a kid that we appreciate and we expect a lot from him. And just for them to step up and be [out of their comfort zone] doing this [was good]. They did their research. And it was actually a great day for us in the clubhouse.”
Based on photos posted on the Red Sox’ social media accounts, it appears as though some of the more established veterans on the team, such as Kiké Hernández, Justin Turner, and Corey Kluber, enjoyed the show.
“That’s what it’s all about, right?” Cora said, via The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham. “I know [people] are questioning the clubhouse and leadership and what we’re doing there. We’re going to do stuff to get to where we’re supposed to.”
With Monday’s team-building exercise in the books as a rousing success, Cora indicated that one of the club’s other WBC participants could give a similar kind of presentation some time next week.
“We’ve got a few guys who are going to the tournament,” said Cora. “I’ll probably tell Kiké to do something to talk about Puerto Rico, so we’ll see.”
(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)