A Hammond native who started out cutting hair for $5 in his grandparents' house while he was still living in their basement is now giving haircuts in a tricked-out Mercedes truck to White Sox superstars like Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Tim Anderson.
Freddie Pintor, the owner of Big League Barbershop in Hammond and St. John, has been cutting the hair of White Sox stars at their homes and condos, outside Guaranteed Rate Field, in the parking lots of hotels and at Midway Airport. He rolls up in a custom Mercedes truck he's equipped with an antique barber chair, a full bar, television and a stereo system pumping out whatever tunes they prefer. A stylist for the South Siders, his growing list of ballplayer clients from the Sox includes Nick Madrigal, Leury Garcia and former right fielder Nomar Mazara. Pitcher Dylan Cease has asked for his number.
"I'm always busy at the shop, but I'm from Hammond cutting White Sox players' hair," he said. "There are thousands of barbers in Chicago and Indiana they could go to and they all know me. ... It's just crazy that a barber from Indiana is cutting the hair of this White Sox team. It's really good and really young. They've got a bright future."
Pintor has run the Big League Barbershop, which has locations at 7051 Kenney Ave. in Hammond and 8385 Wicker Ave. in St. John, for 13 years. His proteges have gone on to open their own barbershops in Hammond and Schererville. Pintor also financed barbershops that a former employee opened at Meijer superstores in Highland and Merrillville.
"We cut everything," he said. "We cut everyone's hair — Puerto Rican, white, black, old, young. It's diverse where I was growing up, and it's a diverse shop with a diverse clientele."
Pintor hails from humble beginnings. He had been living in his grandparents' house in North Hammond when he decided he wanted to cut hair to find an outlet for his creative energy and artistic bent.
He went to barber college but wasn't sure if there was any money in it, asking friends if he could expect to make a living. He was told he could go as far as he was serious about the profession.
He started out giving his friends fades in his grandparents' house, dreaming of someday opening his own shop. He was moving his grandparents' car in their driveway one day when he was told about a potential location in Hessville. He was so excited about the prospect he didn't go back inside to get a shirt and drove there shirtless down 169th Street to check it out.
It was perfect.
Pintor founded Big League Barbershop in Hammond using his grandfather's head as the basis for the logo, modeled loosely after the Major League Baseball logo. His grandfather, also a barber, was a huge White Sox fan who died in 2013, long before Pintor started cutting Moncada's hair in 2018.
"I wasn't even a big fan of baseball or the team when he passed away," he said.
His role as an actual big-league barber all started with Moncada. Pintor's been cutting the third baseman's hair since he first came to the White Sox, but he had to Google him at first.
"I saw he was the No. 1 prospect," he said. "He was polite, but I was nervous because I never cut an athlete's hair before. I was nervous, but he called me for another cut before the season opener in 2019."
Moncada had another barber at his off-season home in Florida but remains close enough with Pintor that he hangs out and plays video games with him and even flew him to Cuba on a private jet.
"I've played MLB The Show on PlayStation with Moncada," Pintor said. "He has a great eye. He never swings at anything."
A Puerto Rican, Pintor was able to talk with Moncada in Spanish. They quickly bonded.
"Moncada's a tremendous player and such a nice guy," he said. "I introduced him to paint-balling in Indiana. I introduced him to Airbnb in Arizona. He had been making a few bucks a month playing in Cuba and is now making like $30 million a year when he can't even go back to see his family. He's all alone here. It's a large adjustment. After they lost to the A's in the playoffs and ended their season, I took him to the Hooters in Merrillville. The people at the bar didn't believe that Moncada was here. His English is broken. But he took pictures with anyone who came up to him. He's always been really humble."
Moncada often has given Pintor free tickets to games, leading him to become a big White Sox fan who follows the team religiously.
"My grandfather and uncles bled Sox and hated the Cubs," he said. "But coming from the north side of Hammond, I was more into basketball and other sports. Now I love baseball and really appreciate Moncada."
Pintor initially became popular with the team's Cuban players, including last year's American League Most Valuable Player, Jose Abreu.
"Abreu's such a tremendous guy," he said. "He's so nice 10 times over. He's a family man who goes to family restaurants and not the clubs. He's not on Instagram and social media all the time so he wants to talk and have a conversation. They all love listening to music or being on their phones except for Abreu. He doesn't go out. He doesn't have social media. They're all really cool, but Abreu actually wants to talk to you."
The players often open up while in the barber chair. Abreu told Pintor how he has tried to mentor younger players, such as by giving Anderson pointers on his hitting when he was coming up. Robert shared unprompted that he became afraid of fly balls after getting struck on the head by one earlier this season — a subject Pintor was averse to ask about when cutting his hair right after that game.
"I told him you have a Gold Glove," Pintor said. "It's like La Russa tells them, everyone makes mistakes. We're all human, and nobody is a robot."
He said the players appreciate the convenience of the mobile barbering truck — an idea he picked up after he saw it in Montreal, Canada, and thought it was cool. He's equipped the truck to provide a relaxed, luxurious experience with television, music, a hot towel machine, a shampooing station, ice buckets filled with imported beer or other beverages, and additional chairs for the players' friends to hang out in. They previously often got haircuts in the clubhouse.
He's given Moncada and Abreu fades, Anderson a tapered curl, and Robert a dyed mohawk now that new manager Tony La Russa has given them more free reign with their hairstyles. Pintor gives them suggestions, and they relax while he goes to work.
"I have tequila on the rocks in an ice bucket and any drinks the clients want in a barbershop setting," he said. "They listen to their music or watch their TV while I work. I keep up with the latest trends. I'm into art. I help them decide what they want."
Anderson likes to listen to rappers like Lil Durk, while Abreu prefers salsa music.
Growing a clientele
Word keeps spreading about the hair-cutting experience Pintor offers in the White Sox clubhouse. He's hoping to get more clients among the pitching staff.
"It's all grown organically," he said. "As soon as I get to meet people they get a level of comfort. They're cool as soon as they get here. I haven't got the pitchers yet though, because they're separate. They're on the same team, but it's weird how they don't interact."
He's hoping to continue to grow the roster of White Sox players he cuts.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "This isn't the perfect time, but nothing is perfect in life. I can't wait for the perfect day or I'm going to wait forever."
Pintor plans to expand the mobile barbering business by renting out the truck to give the general public haircuts, such as White Sox fans on their birthdays.
"I'm just a young barber from Hammond who takes pride in his work and has had it showcased on national television. I always wish I could cut it before the game so it would be super fresh," he said. "But they always book me and bring me back. I go whenever they call whether to their homes, casinos, hotel parking lots or driveways by their condos. I cut their hair at the stadium. I go out to cut their hair by private jets at Midway, in Schaumburg. I try to get as close to them as possible."
The players typically get their hair cut before and after every road trip. He now cuts so many White Sox players' hair, former manager and shortstop Ozzie Guillen has invited Pintor to cut his hair on an episode of "La Vida Baseball."
Pintor said he's bullish about the White Sox's prospects despite injuries and a slow start.
"They haven't been happy playing in the cold, which is a change for most of them," he said. "But they have really good pitching and a good bullpen. Lynn and Kopech are monsters. They're going to snowball and gain momentum."
For more information, visit bigleaguenwi.com, call 219-513-9495 or 219-627-3330 or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
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