For Cuba’s Yasiel Puig, It’s Time to Let Off the Accelerator

By Eric Reynoso  (Café Fuerte)

Yasiel Puig en la foto del arresto el pasado sábado. Cortesía: Policía Condado de Collier
Yasiel Puig in his Collier County Police photo after his arrest on Saturday.

HAVANA TIMES  – The young Cuban star of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig, dazzled the league in the last MLB season for his skill on the base paths, but he appears to be confusing the baseball diamond with US highways.

Puig, 23, was arrested on Saturday evening while driving his Mercedes Benz at 110 miles per hour along the 1-75 highway known as Alligator Alley in South Florida.

Just 24 hours after the incident, the Dodgers let him know their dissatisfaction with his “confusion” with the speed limits is causing the franchise.

“We’ve talked to Yasiel and we have made it clear that we, as an organization, are very disappointed with his recent behavior. This is a very serious issue and we will continue working to educate him on the need to strive to further develop his growth off the field and as a member of this community,” said a statement issued Sunday by the Dodgers.

The message is a stark warning to the immaturity of the Cuban outfielder, who this season competed for the Rookie of the Year award after a dream debut with the Dodgers.

40 MPH over the limit

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the arrest of the Cuban ballplayer having taken place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. He was accompanied by three other people apparently family or friends. After paying a deposit of $500, he was released from Collier County jail at about 1 p.m.

The Highway Patrol report said Puig was driving at 40 miles above the 70 mph speed limit allowed in the Alligator Alley area.

But this was not his first slip behind the wheel. And the Dodgers have already had to swallow dry with another previous incident , which occurred in April on the Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga , Tennessee.

Yasiel Puig. Photo:
Yasiel Puig. Photo:

After several postponements of the court hearing, in early November, a Hamilton County court dismissed the indictment for aggressive driving on the road. On that occasion, Judge David Bales decided not to pursue the case, considering that Puig had no criminal history and it was the first time the young player was caught driving at high speed in the area.

The Chattanooga police report indicated that Puig was driving at 97 mph on a road where the maximum allowed is 50 mph.

Out of fire and back into the frying pan

To pull the chestnuts out of the fire, Lon Rosen, vice president of marketing for the Dodgers, sent a letter to the Tennessee court talking about the behavior of the player and presenting him as a “talent” that has been actively involved with numerous charitable community organizations. The letter even mentioned Puig as prominent in raising funds for an orphanage in Zambia.

On that occasion, Puig didn’t have his insurance papers when stopped by the police. New things for a young man not used to dealing with such responsibilities in a life very different from the one he led in Cuba .

The prosecution accepted that Puig fulfill several hours of community service and everything was sealed. Puig left the court without complications and prepared to enjoy a well-deserved vacation in South Florida, where he has purchased a mansion in the exclusive neighborhood of Pinecrest for US $1.5 million.

But a month and a half after the court case ended, he once again misplaced his insurance documents and exceeded his Chattanooga speeding violation in his Mercedes Benz in Alligator Alley, South Florida.

The winds are not in Yasiel’s favor and the Dodgers know it. Despite his overwhelming popularity on the field and in the social networks, Puig is a citizen who has to abide by the rules of social behavior and overcome the moments of immaturity that still affect his performance as a player and, above all, as an inspiration and reference for the public.

Time for serious thinking

It is time for the young man from Palmira, Cienfuegos to put a brake on the accelerator and meditate on his recent mistakes. Maybe his friends and other famous persons like rapper Jay -Z and LeBron James can give him some advice in good faith.

But what Puig must understand himself is that fame and the $42 million contract with the Dodgers do not excuse him from his fundamental responsibilities on the roads and in his new life. It is quite the contrary. If Cuba’s Communist Party secretary in Cienfuegos could hide away a fine or a charge to protect his image, in the US the rules are different and public figures are exposed to the scrutiny of justice, and mediation does not always have the effect of diluting the problems.

In Major League Baseball, as in all high level professional sports, talent is only part of the victory. There are many examples of athletes with enormous ability who were left by the wayside because of a lack of discipline, focus and accountability in their sport and society .

It is worth reminding Puig that from the pinnacle of fame it only takes one fall to bring on the a total collapse, and the demonization and oblivion from the same journalists that catapulted him to the top.

Yasiel still has time to understand and continue carving his road without disrupting the speed of life with the accelerator of his fancy car. Hopefully that will be his goal for the New Year.

One thought on “For Cuba’s Yasiel Puig, It’s Time to Let Off the Accelerator

  • Old black folks in my neighborhood growing up used to tell us that it did not matter who you were. Even though Muhammad Ali at that time was the handsome, well-spoken heavyweight boxing champion of the world, to most white people in the south he was still a “nigga” and would be treated like one. We took that to mean that the rules apply to just about everyone but especially young talented and rich black men in the ‘south’. Tennessee and Florida are definitely the south. Yasiel needs to clean up his act.

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