I ran across this great article from Puerto Rico that was an interview with Yasiel Puig. I spent a good portion of the evening translating it. (There are those that aren’t aware of my years living in various parts of Latin America that have no clue that Spanish is practically a first language). So I’m just about finished and I perused my favorite blogs and find that Roberto at Vin Scully is My Homeboy has already linked it up and translated portions of the piece. LINKED HERE “Darn, he scooped me again!” I thought. But Roberto’s cool about stuff like that. I fired him off an email and he quickly answered me and said that there’s no problem running my translation of the Puig piece.
So here it is in it’s entirety.
|Yasiel Puig poses with championship trophies from past seasons of the Mayaguez Indians (photo capture from El Nuevo Dia, Juan Luis Valentin)|
Yasiel Puig Valdes is a Champion in the Making
by Fernando Ribas Reyes, Diario El Nuevo Dia
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico-Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig Valdes asked the public relations department of the Mayaguez Indians to bring out some trophies to his interview with El Nuevo Dia.
“I want to be a champion in Puerto Rico and start getting used to victories that are going to come with the Dodgers,” he answered.
Puig at the age of 21 has never won a championship, inside or outside of Cuba. He added that he is eager to obtain one, starting with the nearest opportunity: in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
The Cuban is here, playing a large role with the defending champion Mayguez Indians, contracted under an agreement with the Dodgers who signed him last year to a 7-year pact for $ 42 million.
That signing made Puig Valdes an instant attraction when he left Cuba, where he participated on the Junior National team and where he played in the Serie Nacional (top tier league). The contract turned him into the highest paid Cuban in the Major Leagues.
He wanted to talk very little about Cuba to El Nuevo Dia, even though he gradually accepted the questions sent his way answering them as if he was hitting a curveball.
|(photo capture from El Nuevo Dia, Juan Luis Valentin)|
He left Cuba in a boat arriving in Mexico. He wasn’t playing with the Cuban national team as the team had suspended him for what he called a “disciplinary action” while the team played in a tournament in Holland in 2008. By “disciplimary action” Puig hinted that it was an attempted defection.
Did you leave (Cuba) because you were being “blackballed?”
“I already knew I wouldn’t make the national team. I was wasting my time. I was 21 years old and I needed to be here with the best ballplayers in the world, Matching up with the greatest pitchers like Verlander,” he said.
“I couldn’t stay there anymore because I would play one year and the the next I wouldn’t. Baseball can’t be that way. It has to be played every year. I played in 2008 and then I didn’t in 2009. Later I played in 2010 and didn’t in 2011. In 2012 I came here (referring the the U.S.) where I have been for four months where I have what I didn’t have in Cuba and will never have in Cuba,” he added.
You need to have a lot of courage to leave by boat?
“Courage you need to have to live in Cuba. Here (in the U.S.) is where you need to be or else you’ll stay in the middle of the ocean. Now they can say that I came illegally, in Mexico, in the U.S., in Puerto Rico.”
|Puig signs autographs at a Mayaguez promotional event (photo capture from El Nuevo Dia, Juan Luis Valentin)|
And the family you left behind?
“Yes, it’s a sacrifice. But the family that is left behind in Cuba wants you to be here. They know that we’ll always be close because that’s what is in our hearts. Besides, my mother and my family got used to being far away from me because I was always playing ball and I traveled to all provinces and we lived very little at home.”
Puig Valdes will play in Puerto Rico until the first week of January when he needs to return to Los Angeles to participate in some promotional activities with the team (the Dodgers). He said that he’d speak with the organization for permission to return to Mayaguez to finish the season and win a championship trophy with the Indians.
He’s only been with the club for two games.
“The quality of play here is good. That’s why my team (Dodgers) sent me here to play,” said the Cuban prospect who made his debut last week with a homer in his first plate appearance.
His goal is to prepare himself physically and to work on details of his game because by 2013 he wants to be in the big leagues playing in the outfield next to Matt Kemp. (Article incorrectly referred to Matt as “Jeff” Kemp)
“I came to prepare myself for Spring Training and work on things I need in order to be ready for the big leagues. It all depends on me, what I can do here in Puerto Rico and my manager when I’m in Spring Training. They are the ones that’ll make the decision,” he said.
Would he accept that I compared him to Yoenis Cespedes, the Oakland A’s outfielder who received votes for the Rookie of the Year Award?
“Wait for me to get up to the Dodgers and there you’ll be able to see which player is better and which one helped his team arrive to the World Series finals. It’s something that the fans want and players want.”
He added that his idol was German Mesa.
(end of article)
First things first. I had no idea who German Mesa was nor do I know why the author of this piece made that final statement. It turns out that Mesa was a star shortstop for the Cuban national team that won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and the silver in 2000, (the team that lost to Lasorda's 2000 gold medal team in Sydney). Known as "The magnet" for his amazing defensive abilities. Mesa is currently the Manager of the Industriales team in the Cuban National League.
There was no mention by the interviewer (Fernando Ribas Reyes) of Puig’s staph infection injury to his elbow that kept him from participating in the Arizona Fall League, but all indications are that he is over that set back.
Aside from the written article, Puig gave an interview that is on video which has quite a bit that is repeated in the piece. It’s a bit lengthy to translate and additionally doesn’t have the best audio quality. He went through a lot to get to where he is. Yasiel doesn’t go into details, but his experience in Mexico was not easy. In fact, it was downright life threatening. He described Mexico as a very “violent place,” adding that “the United States is where you need to be.”
Additional quote, talking about money: “I never thought about being the highest paid Cuban baseball player. I didn’t come for money, I simply came to play ball.”