Eric Guevara and his pregnant wife Jessica have been Marlins season ticket holders since the team moved to Little Havana, but Monday was the first time all season they made sure to show up early to watch batting practice.
Baseballs biggest lightning rod, Yasiel Puig, is in town, and the Guevaras were not going to miss an opportunity to see the Dodgers bright young star up close. In the end, they got more than they imagined with their pre-game field passes an autographed baseball and a photo on their cell phone with Puig.
What do I love about him? Just the way he is he plays the game like an animal, said Guevara, a 31-year old Nicaraguan from Miami.
He plays like he remembers where he came from, taking extra bases, throwing guys out. Im putting this baseball up right next to the rock we got from this place when they first broke ground at Marlins Park.
Puig, 22, has only been in a major-league uniform since June 3, but hes quickly won over a nation of fans including quite a few in the Marlins backyard who can identify with the hunger and passion Puig plays the game now that he has the opportunity to.
In April 2012, Puig was caught by the U.S. Coast Guard in a speed boat somewhere between Cuba and Haiti trying to defect. He made it through on his second attempt, and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with L.A. after three scouts came to watch him workout in Mexico City. Puig reportedly didnt even run, field or throw during the workout. All the Dodgers needed to see was him hit.
Youre going to enjoy the show, former Marlin Hanley Ramirez promised of Puig before Mondays series opener. He puts on a show every night out there. Theres a lot of Cubans here. Theyre going to love him, the way he plays the game. When youre young and have that type of talent, can do it all, the game is going to look easy from the outside.
Puig has made it look easy since putting on a Dodgers uniform, ranking among the major-league leaders in hits (91) and runs (47) since being called up from Double A Chattanooga. The Dodgers were 23-32, 8 1/2 games back of first place in the National League West when Puig arrived. They came into Mondays game on a 47-19 run and 7 1/2 games up in their division with Puig in the lineup.
Dodgers fans wore t-shirts Monday that read Yasiel Sabe Puig Knows, an obvious play on the old Bo Jackson Bo Knows t-shirts.
Nowadays, Puig is attending the ESPYs, posing for photos with Kobe Bryant on Instagram and hanging at the Playboy Mansion with rapper Snoop Dogg and singer Chris Brown while making a run at the National League Rookie of the Year award.
TMZ reported Puig and teammates Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford were hanging out with LeBron James early Monday morning at South Beachs LIV Nightclub, hours after the Dodgers had their 10-game win streak halted by the Phillies.
Was Monday morning the first time you met LeBron James? Did you watch the ESPYs? Puig responded in Spanish during a press conference created to meet the demand of interview request. Dont you have a TV in your house?
To some, Puig is too brash, cocky for a rookie barely two months into his career. He doesnt like doing interviews and used profanity in the clubhouse prior to Mondays game when told by a Dodgers official about the aforementioned press conference he was to participate in.