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Yasiel Puig's escape from Cuba

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A must-read story of Puig's journey from Cuba to Los Angeles, with a few stops in between.

Christian Petersen

We see Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig as the playful sort getting into a tickle fight with a teammate or the 23-year-old playing video games with a rival:

But a side of Puig he doesn't talk about much was investigated quite thoroughly by Jesse Katz at LA Magazine. I saw Katz during spring training, during the three days he unsuccessfully tried to interview Puig, but never imagined the type of story that would come. Katz wrote of Puig's journey from Cuba to Mexico to Chavez Ravine, a tale involving smuggling, a boxer, a machete, a "staged kidnapping," extortion, and even Denny's:

To ease Puig’s transition, the Dodgers placed him on their Arizona Rookie League squad and paired him with a mentor, a high school wrestling coach named Tim Bravo, whose official title was "director of cultural assimilation." Their first days together—Puig’s first on American soil—were pure wonder, everything so new and different, even in the bland desert sprawl of Camelback Ranch. "He does everything full speed, everything hard, everything with exuberance," Bravo told me. "I tried to keep him out of trouble, but it wasn’t always easy. He was saying, Yes, yes, yes, and I was saying, No, no, no."

Puig discovered the round-the-clock comforts of Denny’s, returning day after day for steak and eggs. Flipping channels, he stumbled upon the Three Stooges and spent hours nyuck-nyuck-ing himself silly. He had to learn not just English but the basics of modern consumerism: to tip, to use an ATM, to read labels, to pump gas. "I hate to say this, but I taught him to drive," said Bravo. "We’d take my rental car out right after practice, drive around the Camelback parking lots. We were doing all the things you’d teach a teenager."

It really is a fantastic article, one I highly recommend reading.