Cuban Defector Puig Celebrates First Fourth of July

Cuban Defector Puig Celebrates First Fourth of July

Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Yasiel Puig did not experience freedom until he successfully defected from Cuba–after numerous failed attempts–in the summer of 2012.

After becoming the first player in history to win the player of the month award in either league in his debut month (only Joe DiMaggio had a better first month in the the big leagues) and the fifth in history to win the rookie of the month and player of the month awards in the same month on Wednesday, Puig got ready to celebrate his first Fourth of July by waving an American flag in the Dodgers dugout during their 10-8 win at Colorado.

Puig plays the game like each will be his last. That was again evident on Wednesday. Puig scored from second base on an Adrian Gonzalez groundout to first, and then promptly crashed into the wall to make a spectacular catch in the bottom of the fifth inning. This was not the the first time Puig has hurled his body into a wall to rob a player of an extra-base hit. 

But his latest spectacular catch took a toll, as Puig had to leave the game for precautionary reasons with a bruised hip–after he stayed in the game to basically hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth inning with just his arms, as it was clear his legs were hurting.

Puig is listed as “day-to-day” as X-rays turned out negative. That status most aptly described Puig’s life in Cuba, where citizens live “day-to-day” without freedom and in fear of the state. 

Part of the reason Puig plays with an infectious joy on the baseball field, as if he is unburdened, is because in America, he no longer has to live day-to-day worrying about what an oppressive government may do to him.

Puig has brought vibrancy to what had been a moribund team mired in last place, leading the Dodgers back into contention, only 2.5 games out of first place. He plays the game like he has nothing to lose–and with house money–because he finally is free. 


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