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Robinson Canó has memories — fond, ever-lasting, dream-come-true memories amassed during his 17 years as an elite Major League Baseball player.
Memories such as playing in the World Series. Being an All-Star. Winning the Home Run Derby. Getting his first major league at-bat. Stepping into the batter’s box for his first at-bat in the playoffs.
“Nothing, though, compares to winning a World Series,” he said while sitting in the El Paso Chihuahuas dugout at Southwest University Park. “Nothing compares to a World Series. But playing for as long as I have, you make a lot of memories, a lot of great memories.
“But I want more.”
That is why Canó, the former San Diego Padre and New York Yankee who won a World Series in 2009, is in El Paso. He is playing in the minor leagues for the Chihuahuas because he wants a chance to prove that he can still hit in the big leagues.
He is not ready to call it a career.
“I love baseball. People don’t realize how much I love this game,” the 39-year-old said. “I grew up playing in a baseball family. I’ve always been in a ballpark since I was six with my father.”
Canó has been in El Paso since June 10 when he agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres. The Padres asked him to play for the Chihuahuas, one of the organization’s minor league teams.
As a veteran baseball player he could have said no. It was his choice. He said yes.
“I like the coaching staff, my teammates,” he said. “The fans are into the game. The energy is good. … I’m enjoying it here.”
El Paso Chihuahuas Manager Jared Sandberg said Canó is a positive influence.
“It is tremendous for a guy like him to come here and work hard and have an impact on the team and the players,” Sandberg said. “They look up to him. I look up to him. … He talks to them about the details of their game, helps them better understand what it takes.”
After two weeks with the Chihuahuas, Canó almost has his rhythm back. As of Thursday night, he was hitting .302. He got three hits Wednesday night against Oklahoma City, none on Thursday.
“I have to get back to being myself, to hit the way I know how,” he said. “I know I can still play this game and I understand how to play, how to get good at-bats.
“I just have to get myself back.”
Getting himself back means hitting for average and power. Canó has a .301 career batting average and has hit 335 homeruns. He accumulated those stats from 2005 to 2020.
Canó didn’t play in 2021 due to a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. When he returned to the New York Mets in 2022, the first thing he did was apologize to the organization, his teammates and coaches.
However, the hits didn’t return. He struggled with the Mets at the start of this season. The Mets released him and the San Diego Padres signed him.
He played in 12 games with the Padres but only got three hits. The Padres released him before re-signing him and giving him a chance to find his rhythm in El Paso.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Canó signed with the New York Yankees in 2001. After four years in the minor leagues, he was called up to the major leagues in 2005. He played with the Yankees from 2005 to 2013 and was a starter and key cog when the team won the World Series in 2009.
In 2013, Canó signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, playing with the team for four years before being traded to the Mets.
He now has his eyes set on the San Diego Padres, who are in contention for the MLB playoffs.
“Of course I want to be in the majors,” he said. “Nobody wants to (stay) in the minor leagues, everyone here wants to be called up.”