Yasiel Puig, Dodgers' Outfielder

Yasiel Puig.

 

Yasiel Puig Valdes was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, on Dec. 7, 1990, and by the time he was a teenager ranked among the elite players in the world-renown Cuban baseball program.

In 2008, he helped lead the Cuban national team to a bronze medal finish in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Puig advanced to play for his hometown Cienfuegos team in the 2008-2009 Cuban National Series, batting .276 and hitting five home runs in his rookie season.

A Cuban Phenom Escapes to the United States:

 

The next year, he secured his place as a star in the Cuban leagues, hitting .320 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI. In 2011, Puig joined the Cuban national team in the World Port Tournament, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where he made an unsuccessful attempt to defect and seek political asylum with teammate Gerardo Concepcion, who was successful.

As punishment, the Cuban government suspended Puig for the next season. In 2012, Puig tried to defect again, this time boarding a speedboat and heading for Mexico. According to baseball sources, a benefactor paid $10,000 to set up the voyage to Cancun and freedom.

Puig ultimately obtained a visa from the Mexican government and entered the United States as a Mexican resident rather than a Cuban defector. As a refugee from the communist Fidel Castro regime in Cuba, Puig received special treatment from U.S. immigration officials under the so-called “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers Offer a $42 Million Contract

 

MLB officials ruled him a free agent, and the Los Angeles Dodgers wasted no time signing him to a seven-year, $42 million contract in 2012, a remarkable deal considering his limited playing record. Puig came to the United States speaking almost no English but bringing with him huge expectations as one of the most highly-regarded players the baseball-rich island had ever developed -- which is saying something, since Cuba has produced dozens of talented players who reached the big leagues over the last 50 years, despite the difficulties in making the trip.

Puig, a 6-foot-3 and 245-pound outfielder with a powerful throwing arm, went to the Dodgers’ spring training in Arizona and immediately created a buzz. He wound up hitting .526 during preseason, and the club sent him to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Class AA Southern League.

The Dodgers called up Puig to the majors on June 2, and he quickly became one of the most talked-about players of the 2013 season. He had 27 hits in his first 15 games, and by the All-Star break, he was hitting .392 with eight homer runs and 19 RBI.

Though he played in only 37 games before the break, Puig received 842,915 write-in All-Star votes and narrowly missed making it to the game in a final vote-off, losing to the Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman.

Another young Cuban defector, 20-year-old pitcher Jose Fernandez, represented the Miami Marlins in the All-Star game.

 

A 'Good Kid' Who 'Just Wants To Play':

 

Former Dodgers’ Manager Don Mattingly said Puig has “the world on a string” as far as potential goes but the transition to stardom and freedom has been stressful at times for the 22-year-old. In some respects, the Dodgers are happier that Puig didn’t make the All-Star team and can take a few days off to decompress and digest his meteoric rise.

“He’s a good guy,” Mattingly has told reporters, who have had difficulty getting interviews from the often quiet and withdrawn Dodger. “Yasiel is a good kid. It’s a lot for him to handle...He just wants to play.”

Puig began the 2015 season with hamstring problems that caused him to miss games throughout the ear. In April, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his major league career, due to his nagging left hamstring.[38][39] He eventually rejoined the Dodgers roster on June 6.

Then in August Puig injured his right hamstring and was placed on the 15-day disabled list nine days later. He returned on October 3, appearing in the final two games of the season. He played in a total of 79 regular-season games. His batting average fell to .255, with 11 homers and 38 RBI, all career lows and disappointing to LA fans who were hoping Puig would develop into one of the franchise's great players.

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Moffett, Dan. "Yasiel Puig, Dodgers' Outfielder." ThoughtCo, Mar. 27, 2016, thoughtco.com/yasiel-puig-dodgers-outfielder-1951887. Moffett, Dan. (2016, March 27). Yasiel Puig, Dodgers' Outfielder. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/yasiel-puig-dodgers-outfielder-1951887 Moffett, Dan. "Yasiel Puig, Dodgers' Outfielder." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/yasiel-puig-dodgers-outfielder-1951887 (accessed November 22, 2017).