'I love the game': Robinson Cano enjoying stint with El Paso Chihuahuas

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As it turns out, the most obvious question to El Paso Chihuahua Robinson Cano was the easiest to answer.

Over the course of a 17-year pro career, Cano has won a World Series, been an All-State eight times, won five Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves. He's been an All-Star Game MVP, won a home run derby and been an MVP on a gold-medal winning World Baseball Classic team for his native Dominican Republic.

Previous: San Diego Padres top prospect C.J. Abrams comes alive for Chihuahuas, works for MLB return

Now, a month and a half shy of his 40th birthday, it must be asked: What is Cano doing in El Paso, playing Triple-A baseball with the hopes of receiving one more shot in a league where he has done just about everything?

"I love baseball," Cano said Wednesday at Southwest University Park, shortly before going 3-for-6 in a win against Oklahoma City. "People don't realize how much I love this game. I grew up in a baseball family (his father Jose played in the Major Leagues and named his son after Jackie Robinson), I've always been in the ballpark since I was a kid with my dad.

"I love the game, I know I can still play this game and I understand how to play, how to get good at-bats and that's what I'm doing here. I'm not thinking that I'm in the minor leagues, I'm having fun and enjoying being here, enjoying this time."

Increasingly, Cano's playing like it in one of the more interesting years of a distinguished career. He missed the 2021 season on a year-long suspension for a positive test for Stanozolol, then was released by the New York Mets in May.

He signed on with San Diego but was designated to El Paso on June 2 after hitting .149 in sporadic playing time with the Padres. Cano initially declined that assignment, hoping for a better big league offer. When that didn't come it looked like the end of the road for his career.

El Paso Chihuahuas Robinson Cano, left, watches the game against the Las Vegas Avaitors at Southwest University Park in El Paso Texas on June 14, 2022.
El Paso Chihuahuas Robinson Cano, left, watches the game against the Las Vegas Avaitors at Southwest University Park in El Paso Texas on June 14, 2022.

Then Cano had a change of direction, signed a minor-league contract with San Diego, was assigned to El Paso and made his debut on June 11. In the process he became the biggest name in the history of the Chihuahuas to play in Southwest University Park.

"I like the coaching staff, my teammates," Cano said. "The building is great, the fans are into the game. The energy is good, this is one of the most beautiful parks I've been to in the minor leagues. I'm enjoying it here.

"Nobody wants to be in the Minor Leagues (forever), everyone here wants to be called up someday. But I don't have that in mind. I want to play, have quality at-bats, get some good swings so people can still see that I can play this game."

In his first 14 games with the Chihuahuas he's hitting .323 with 11 RBI.

"I just have to get myself back to getting good at-bats," Cano said. "I didn't take that many at-bats (in San Diego earlier this year), that's the goal here, to get at-bats and to get back to myself."

Surprisingly, one thing he's working through is gaining experience in Triple-A, which now has a set of rules he's not used to with pitch clocks and the electronic balls and strikes.

"It's different here, now you have that electronic machine, that's not the same," Cano said. "For a guy like me, so many years in the big leagues, a pitch ends up on the ground but it passed through the strike zone so it's a strike. It is what it is. We deal with that every day, I don't have problems, just go out there and look for the first pitch.

"Also you have the clock time. I struck out the other day with eight seconds left. I didn't know the rule, you had to be looking at the pitcher nine seconds left on the clock. I struck out with two strikes."

Those kinds of bumps aside, Cano understands his pedigree entails a leadership role with the team.

"I'm always open to help the guys here, to share my thoughts, what I've learned from my experience in the big leagues," he said. "There's a lot of great talent here, you can see the guys want to go out and compete and play hard. That's what keeps this team motivated.

"Also the manager (Jared Sandberg). He lets the guys play, you never see him overreact. He gives you a chance to go out and do your thing, that's big."

As for El Paso, Cano admits he hasn't seen much of it in the last month other than the ballpark he likes so much.

"In this weather you don't want to be out in the day when you have to go out and play," he said. "But it's beautiful. There's chemistry, people show up at the ballpark, as a player that's what you want. You want the fans to come to the game and you want a team that is motivated to go out and play every day."

As he's approaching his 40th birthday, Cano finds all the motivation he needs through a love he still harbors for the game of baseball.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Robinson Cano enjoying stint with El Paso Chihuahuas