The Insane, Harrowing Story Of Yasiel Puig's Journey To America
Ever since his debut in June of 2013, Yasiel Puig has been the most fascinating member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a recent story from Los Angeles Magazine only further adds to the intrigue. Love him or hate him (and most of you love him, as his #66 was one of the best-selling jerseys last year), the 23 year-old Cuban defector has become the favorite topic of sportswriters on both sides of the debate. He'll ruin the Dodgers by showing up late for work, but at the same time he's also "everything great about baseball."
However you feel about Puig and his behavior, this Los Angeles Magazine feature paints another picture of the athlete and his harrowing journey. Because of the American embargo, Cubans have to defect in order to play in the Major Leagues. This sends those ballplayers with Major League aspirations on a treacherous journey that could land them in jail if they are ever caught. It took Puig on his fifth defection attempt to ultimately make it first to Mexico where he would wind up signing with the Dodgers for $42 million all based off one batting practice session.
The story of Puig's defection doesn't end there, as a lawsuit by a man jailed in Cuba has brought much more information to light. Miguel Angel Corbacho Daudinot is serving seven years in jail after being turned in by Puig and his mother when he offered to help him defect, and is suing Puig for ratting him out and subjecting him to the horrors of the Cuban prison system ("overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy" according to Human Rights Watch). A boxer who accompanied Puig on his defection (along with a Santería priest and Puig's then-girlfriend) is now serving as a witness to the lawsuit, detailing the men associated with the Zetas drug cartel that smuggled them into Mexico, the small-time crook from Miami that "rescued" them from Mexico when monetary negotiations went awry, and the mysterious death of one of the smugglers who had previously threatened Puig for payment.
The Los Angeles Magazine piece never goes so far as to accuse Puig of any wrongdoing, but instead reveals the hardships and murky waters that Cubans endure when trying to escape to freedom. Certainly Puig could use a little sanding down on the rough edges of his behavior, but is important to put in perspective that he is still a 23 year old in a country and society that is completely new to him. Let's cut him a little slack, shall we?