'The Club' offers inside look at White Sox
Reality series will debut Sunday night on MLB Network
MINNEAPOLIS -- A moment occurs in Sunday night's first episode of "The Club," an MLB Network original series premiering at 9 p.m. ET, which symbolizes both the struggles and the special achievements from the game of baseball at the same time.
This instance from the new reality series focused on the daily trials and travails of the White Sox front office as it deals with Sergio Santos and his improbable climb to the Majors. Santos is seated on a couch in manager Ozzie Guillen's office near the end of Spring Training, with pitching coach Don Cooper seated next to him, and general manager Ken Williams and Guillen across the room.
It's time to make final roster cuts, and Santos, who converted from infielder to hard-throwing reliever in the course of just one year, looms as one of the final two or three choices for the last bullpen slot.
"Did I see any fear in you?" asks Williams of Santos.
Santos shakes his head to indicate there was no sense of angst during his first big league camp as a pitcher.
"My dad always instilled in me and my brothers never to be afraid of anything," Santos said.
"You should call your dad and tell him to meet you in Chicago, because you will be pitching for the White Sox," Williams said.
Cooper smiles and pats Santos on the back, while Santos, the D-backs' top pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, immediately becomes emotional.
"Hopefully it comes off pretty well and I don't get made fun of too much," said Santos with a laugh, when asked about "The Club" moment during Chicago's weekend series with the Twins in Minneapolis. "It's something I'll take with me to my grave and always remember, just because so many years of hard work brought me there."
As Santos emotionally talks about how much this moment means to his family, Guillen quickly adds his unique take on the matter.
"When you cry here, don't make me cry in June," said Guillen, evoking laughter from the room.
And thus the spirit of this highly anticipated show becomes readily apparent.
In Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox chairman who has overseen seven professional sports championships in Chicago, you have an extremely bright orator with a sharp sense of humor. In Williams, the team's general manager for the past decade and architect of the club that won the 2005 World Series, you have a passionate and eloquent leader.
Then, there's Guillen, an underrated on-field strategist possessing perfect comedic timing. He figures to be the star of this series, but as Guillen told MLB.com on Friday, "The Club" is not a show devoted to the White Sox manager.
"Nobody has to watch the program to see who I am and what I do. It's always there," Guillen said. "Maybe if they don't say it's Ozzie's show, they might not sell it. In the meanwhile, I have my own show every day, and that's enough for me.
"Yesterday I was upset, a couple of days I was upset, because people think it's the Ozzie Guillen show. It's not my show. Day in and day out, it's something about the organization. It's a lot of people involved. I'm less involved in the thing.
"It will be refreshing, a very nice thing to watch. You really have to watch it, because people will know how Kenny, the scouts, the assistant general manager [Rick Hahn] and the [media relations] department work together to put this thing together for the ballclub."
The first of six installments, narrated by actor and devout White Sox fan Michael Clarke Duncan, begins with a late January meeting between Reinsdorf, Williams and Guillen in Chicago and covers the good and bad, the humorous and controversial, all the way through May. Along the way, there is a lunch with Reinsdorf and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at one of their favorite delis in Arizona, full of entertaining commentary, and tape of the Opening Day speech delivered by Guillen and Williams to the team.
"Prepare to play through October," Williams tells his charges.
"If you are not trying to win a championship for the White Sox, I'm sorry," Williams added. "That's what I do."
Some White Sox players don't seem overly-anxious to see the finished product, being they are living these moments every day. Then, there are cases such as Santos, who said his entire family will be taping Sunday's episode.
"Some are ordering MLB Network to see it," a smiling Santos said.
"At first I was like, I was making my phone calls, saying I had made the team, and they were filming, and it was weird at first," Santos continued. "I don't want to hear them talking to my parents, but now looking back, it's exciting."
There are microphones and television cameras around Guillen every day, waiting on his every humorous, biting word, hoping he says something controversial. But Guillen points out how his involvement isn't any more prominent than Reinsdorf, Williams or the team itself in this inside look.
Yet, with or without the show, the "Hispanic Jackie Mason," as Reinsdorf refers to his manager, is the star.
Fans tuning in get words of wisdom from Guillen such as, "I'll be the first guy to die for this ballclub," or "You not pick your family, but we pick this ballclub, and everybody in this clubhouse right now is a family for the next seven months."
There's also a telling managerial moment when Guillen candidly explains to Jared Mitchell, the team's fleet-footed top pick from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, not to be afraid to bunt ever, even if he's 0-for-3 in a game.
"That's going to be your game," Guillen tells an attentive Mitchell during a Cactus League contest.
With the White Sox reality in focus for this tale, there doesn't figure to be a dull moment throughout this fifth series produced for MLB Network by MLB Productions.
"We are a lot of things around here," said Williams during an interview segment. "But we could never be described as boring."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.