By Elizabeth Piraino |Staff Writer|
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodger’s outfielder, has all the makings of a blockbuster motion picture: star athlete,
rescuer, escapee, and is currently battling a $12 million lawsuit.
Puig has successfully defected from Cuba after four failed attempts.
The 22-year old has already led an extraordinary life but unfortunately Puig is not willing to share his story.
Jesse Katz, in his Los Angeles Magazine article, “Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers,” writes that “Puig has never publicly discussed his odyssey to the big leagues or even much of his life before that.”
The Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year contract worth $42 million as an amateur free agent in 2012.
Puig has a batting average of .312 since being called up to the majors in June 2013 with an on-base-percentage of .386. Puig also has a capable glove, and combined with his, accurate arm, has assisted in 12 put-outs this year.
Scott Eden reported in “No One Walks Off The Island” for ESPN The Mag that much of what has been said about Puig’s journey to the United States has come from his childhood friend, Yunior Despaigne, who defected with Puig and two others.
In a statement attributed to Puig last week, he acknowledged his recent troubles.
“I’m aware of the recent articles and news accounts. I understand that people are curious and have questions, but I will have no comment on this subject. I’m only focused on being a productive teammate and helping the Dodgers win games,” said Puig.
Eden recounts how Puig left Cuba on a cigarette-style boat, helmed by traffickers of a known Mexican drug cartel. The group was headed to Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Mexico.
Halfway to Mexico, the boat ran out of fuel and was adrift in the Caribbean Sea for several hours. Puig and his companions were finally rescued by other members of the cartel who were able to bring them gas.
Once the defectors arrived on shore, they were whisked away to a motel room where they were held captive for several weeks by the traffickers as they waited to be paid.
Katz reported Despaigne said, “If they didn’t receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo”—a machete—“chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone.”
The group of four was confined to one room and was finally rescued, under the cover of darkness, by members of another cartel.
The first cartel claims that they were never paid the full amount of money that was promised to them and they have issued death threats against Puig.
Cartel members have also shown up at hotels where the Dodgers have been staying, to demand money from Puig.
Eden explains that Puig’s legal troubles are from a $12 million Florida lawsuit filed in Federal court, which accuses Puig of “wrongfully accusing a man of attempting to set up a defection.”
The Dodgers have kept silent on the controversy surrounding Puig and Major League Baseball issued the following statement last week, “The safety and security of everyone in our sport is paramount importance to Major League Baseball…(the League)cannot comment on such measures that have been taken.”