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Latino Daily News

Friday June 7, 2013

Yasiel Puig: From Cuban Defector to MLB Star All in One-Year

Yasiel Puig: From Cuban Defector to MLB Star All in One-Year

Photo: Dodgers Yasiel Puig

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Do you know who Yasiel Puig is?  Do you know that this baseball wonder boy just last year defected from his native Cuba via Mexico?  Did you know that he has only been in Major League Baseball for four days and baseball Dodgers fans can’t get enough of him?

If you knew none of this what you need to know is that you will soon know a lot about the 22-year-old outfielder.  His journey to the U.S. from Cuba is something out of a spy novel with a feel-good ending.

Puig was a treasure to Cuba’s beleaguered national league, thrilling fans in his last season (2010-11) with 47 RBI’s and 17 home runs.  Why his last season when he was a clear super-star in Cuban baseball?  Puig wanted to come play and be paid for his talents in the U.S. something that did not endear him to the Raul Castro administration. 

Castro’s administration learned of Puig’s yearning to defect and benched him after finding out about several unsuccessful defection attempts, potentially derailing this budding baseball career. 

In 2012 some people allegedly paid $10,000 to get Puig out of the country sensing he was going to make it big in MLB.  They sent a high-speed boat to get him out of Cuba to Cancun, Mexico.  Basically, Puig or people close to him utilized high-end human smugglers to get him out of his native country. 

Can you see a blockbuster-action movie being made out of this adventure?

The minute he landed on U.S. soil in June, 2012 he was not only welcomed he was given an astounding 7-year/$42 million players contract for never having step foot on U.S. soil to play professional baseball.  Clearly scouts knew what Castro knew, Puig was special.  The contract was offered to him sight-unseen because he was still in Mexico waiting to see if the Mexican government would grant him a FM-2 Mexican Visa that would make it easier for him to come to the U.S. as a Mexican resident instead of as a Cuban defector.

Fast forward a year to this June 3rd when he made his debut playing for the Dodgers thrilling fans here and in Cuba.  Thursday in his second game of his professional career, he hit a grand slam in the 8th inning against the Atlanta Braves – for sure giving Castro a sure pang of envy.