When you strive for a goal, whatever that goal may be, there is nothing more satisfying than proving those who doubted you wrong. Many times, external factors get in our way and it is up to us to persevere and find success the hard way. Through hard work and determination, Yasiel Puig transformed himself from a Cuban refugee into a Cuban superstar.
Before he hit .312 in his rookie season and before he became a household name in Major League Baseball, Puig embarked on a high-risk excursion to reach his lifelong goal of playing professional baseball. As if it wasn’t hard enough to make it in professional sports, Puig had to essentially escape from his homeland of Cuba for a chance to make it to the big leagues.
Prior to his ascension to stardom, very few of those who bought his No. 66 jersey knew his story. It is a story of great courage, risk, and ultimately, a great reward.
In April of 2012, Puig and a group of other migrants from Cuba set out on a journey to the United States. Thousands of migrants have tried and failed to defect themselves from Cuba, which is an extremely dangerous process.
Shortly after boarding a boat that was headed for the United States, Puig and roughly 12 other refugees were contacted by U.S. Coast Guard. After being transported to a safe haven in Haiti, certain members of the Coast Guard became informed that Puig was a baseball player. Yet, they were unable to see the extraordinary talent Puig possessed.
Puig had previously attempted to defect himself from Cuba a few months earlier, but was caught and as a result, he was sent back to his homeland and was banned from playing baseball in Cuba. Little help was given to Puig to help him defect from Cuba and once again forced to return back to the same place he started this journey.
Months later, Puig mysteriously ended up in Mexico. While some believe drug smugglers helped Puig, no one knows how he got there. Nonetheless, it was one step closer to his end destination.
Following his obscure excursion to Mexico, Puig failed to impress major league scouts due to his lack of conditioning and the fact he was not able to play professionally in Cuba. Puig desired someone to help him, not deter him.
While in Mexico, Puig befriended a man named Jaime Torres. Torres recounts Puig asking him for help and specifically saying, “help me get to the big leagues.” And that is exactly what Torres proceeded to do; assisting a young man with extraordinary talent who had all odds stacked against him.
To scouts, he failed in comparison to Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban born player who was also defected from Cuba and received a multimillion-dollar contract from the Oakland Athletics. Miraculously, just two months after being on a boat with a dozen other refugees searching for hope in America, Yasiel Puig received a 7-year, $42 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodges. And the rest is history.
Puig made an immediate impact with the Dodgers when he finished second in MLB Rookie of the Year voting and helped lead the Dodgers to the division title.
By persevering and reaching his goal of playing in the Major Leagues, Puig not only impressed fans, his teammates, and mangers with his talents but he exceeded the expectations for aspiring ballplayers in Cuba.