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Must-Click Link: Yasiel Puig’s harrowing journey to the United States

Apr 14, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT

source: Getty Images

Read this story by Jesse Katz in L.A. Magazine about Yasiel Puig’s journey from Cuban poverty to major league prosperity and then try to lecture Puig about his need to grow up. I dare you.

After several aborted attempts to defect, Puig and a handful of others are holed up on an island near Cancun as the men who smuggled him out of Cuba negotiate for their payment from the crooked Miami businessman who promised to fund the job:

Every time the smugglers picked up their satellite phone to call Miami, though, Pacheco seemed unable or unwilling to meet their demands. It was unclear whether he was stiffing the smugglers or whether the smugglers were gouging him. For every day of nonpayment, they upped Puig’s price by $15,000 or $20,000. The calls between Mexico and Florida grew furious. The days turned to weeks. Holed up in that dump of a motel, all four migrants in the same dank room, Puig was so close to the prize—now was not the time to lose faith—and yet having just been liberated, his fate was never more out of his hands. The defector had become a captive.

“I don’t know if you could call it a kidnapping, because we had gone there voluntarily, but we also weren’t free to leave,” said the boxer, Yunior Despaigne, who had known Puig from Cuba’s youth sports academies. “If they didn’t receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo”—a whack with a machete—“chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone.”

The story is about much more than those harrowing days, however. It’s about the hopelessly corrupt system in place which forces Cuban athletes into these dangerous situations — and to pay usurious fees — to criminals in order to get to the United States to play baseball. And about how Major League Baseball and the U.S. government’s approach to all of this is a driving force, if not the driving force in an insane system.

It’s also about Yasiel Puig the person who — much in keeping with the criticism he’s received of late — is described as someone who has always been somewhat crazy and impulsive. But how those traits are thrown into a pretty stark explanatory framework when you realize that, in Puig’s words, “where I come from, you don’t think a whole lot about tomorrow.” And how “sleep is when it’s your turn to die . . . for that reason I sleep with one eye open.”

Even to this day, Puig’s journey to the United States has left violence and crime in its wake and, quite possibly, in its future, as his family in Cuba has been threatened and shaken down. Likewise, Puig himself is accused in a lawsuit of shakedowns and machinations of his own. The world Puig comes from is harrowing in the extreme and, in many ways, he’s still living with the repercussions of it all.

So, yes, the guy should show up to the clubhouse on time. And yes, he should strive to hit the cutoff man more frequently. But if you think this justifies a sanctimonious lecture from a privileged person about how Puig needs to “grow up” and respect the game, you’re quite frankly insane. The man has already had to live through more than most of his detractors could ever imagine. And he has done more and risked more to play baseball in this country than they could ever dream.

  1. coffeeblack95616 - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Typical crap journalism. Note how the author assumes anyone who would lecture Puig must come from a “privileged” background. The assumptions this author makes of his readers is insulting.
    If a reckless driver hits my daughter and kills her, if the driver had a rough past I should then excuse it? If someone behaves improperly, I should find out about how tough a past they had and not criticize bad behavior?
    It’s sad to see what journalism has come to with all of these bloggers posing as writers. Or am I being too critical and not considering the poor writer’s tough past from my allegedly “privileged” background?

    • danrizzle - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      I hope I get banned for this comment so I’m never tempted to comment again, but I have to say this. Not only are you an asshole. You are definitely that, and you probably understand that much. What you may not know, but should know, is that you are also very, very stupid.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 20, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        You didn’t get banned. I’m glad.

    • halfthemoney - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Your strawman about reckless drivers aside, it doesn’t take too much intelligence to realize that ANY ballplayer coming from Cuba or the majority of Latin American country’s comes from a less privileged background than the average US born ball player.

    • jimmyc213 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      You’re EXACTLY the kind of people author is talking about….we don’t need to “note” author is assuming the lecturer comes from a privileged background. It’s a very likely assumption. If a reckless driver hits your daughter and kills her, there are no society that would just excuse it and let him walk. However, if you can’t sympathize with that driver’s harsh upbringing, then I’d assume you lived a very sheltered life. He doesn’t get the concept, “reckless” driving….he grew up where driving was a privilege only afforded to some. There’s no intention to hurt others, he’s just absent minded. Idiot.

    • Patrick R. - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      This comment is so mind-numbingly dumb. You’re comparing TOOTBLANs and missing the cut-off man to vehicular manslaughter? Just how stupid are you?

  2. steelhammer92 - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    This article reeks of liberalism.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 20, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      You reek of the right wing disease of stupidity.

  3. jdvalk - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    The photo in this story should be the one of Selig, Castro, and Angelo’s sitting together watching a game. If ever a picture is worth a thousand synonyms for cronyism and dysfunction, that’s it.

  4. raysfan1 - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    Amazing. Post an article saying Puig needs to improve his behavior and improve his play but that folks should learn his real background before judging him as nothing more than a POS…and people come out of the woodwork to call him a POS, many with comments making it clear they read neither the post nor the linked article.

  5. kylewo - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    What the hell is wrong with people? How is this liberal? That’s the implication many detractors are making. Is empathy liberal? If so, god help the conservatives.

    • paperlions - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:39 PM

      Yes, somehow, empathy, kindness, and acceptance are now “liberal” qualities. I have no idea how this happened, but it did.

      • paperlions - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:39 PM

        Oh, and not only are they supposedly “liberal” qualities…they are BAD qualities.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:19 AM

        This change is a large part of why I’m a Democrat and apparently ‘liberal’ today compared to the conservative Republican I was raised to be. I was raised on a diet of “Jesus is Love” and then I found out that Republicans don’t believe in unconditional love, empathy, kindness, acceptance, sharing or any of the other things Jesus taught. So, being a believer(although less so today) I was really only left with one choice…

      • yahmule - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        It happened through evolution. Liberals are driven by their prefrontal cortex, where most of the higher brain functions occur, such as empathy. Conservatives are controlled by the amygdala, the area where the fight-or-flight response is located. This is probably why so many conservatives deny evolution.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 20, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Excellent. Republicans are the embodiment of stupid.

  6. halfthemoney - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    At the end of the day I’ll go out on a limb and state that no poster here is a combination of being a 23 yr old MLB player that escaped from a restrictive communist nation under harsh conditions and now makes $6M a year. Probably the only frame of reference any of us here has is being young once upon a time, playing baseball MAYBE at the collegiate level and being perfect at that age.That means I doubt anyone here has a frame of reference to judge him.

  7. matt14gg - Apr 14, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    Rubbish…nothing more than the Yasiel Puig excuse tour…and oh by the way, a bunch of unproveable, unverifiable haggiography.

    • Patrick R. - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      What did he do to you that leaves you fuming?

  8. psly2124 - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    I call b.s. On this story. Every couple of month another story comes out. This has been put out by his agent to make him look better. Give a sob story and the lame street media will pick it up and run with it. Not to far off on How he was raised InCuba with the propaganda machine called Castro. I thought Cuba was a wonderful place to live all the media says. I’m surprised he didn’t come over on a boat made of silk pillows and gold. That’s how the media portrays Cuba.

  9. thetoolsofignorance - Apr 14, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    People will scream at this kid over nothing. Demand he abandon his youth for their enjoyment. If even a quarter of this story is true, then I say f#ck ’em. F#ck em all

    He’s been through more in his young life than many of us will ever suffer. Let him be 23, rich and alive. He was nearly none of those things

    Go Dodger Blue.

  10. kevinbnyc - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Where are all the idiots who, just last week, were saying, “Latin-American players aren’t being exploited, they’re being given a chance to escape a 3rd world country and make millions!” I dare any one of them to go through this ordeal.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 20, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      They’re watching FOX fake news.

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