Coast Guard crew remembers Yasiel Puig

the-vigilant-uscg.jpgIn April 2013, the United States Coast Guard cutter Vigilant intercepted a speedboat racing from Cuba toward Haiti. On board were a dozen or so Cubans trying to defect. One of them was clearly bigger and in better shape than the others. He gave his name as Yasiel, and he traveled with a woman to whom he seemed particularly close and a handful of other friends. From Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports:

One of the most amazing things about Yasiel Puig's rapid rise to superstardom over the last month with the Los Angeles Dodgers is that his adoring masses know next to nothing about him. They buy his No. 66 jersey and bellow at the throws he makes from the outfield and gawk at his monster home runs, and that is enough because his game is so wondrous.

If it seems as though Puig materialized from nowhere and became one of the biggest things in baseball overnight, it's because he did. The first 21 years of his life remain almost a complete secret. Part of Puig's intrigue stems from that mystery. Baseball demigods don’t just appear out of nowhere. Even Cubans who defect arrive with some sort of a backstory. Puig is an anomaly: a burgeoning legend without a past.

Except for the one those on the Vigilant now know.

The crew got to know Puig a little bit before, as is the routine, they took him and other attempted defectors back to a point off Cuba and turned them over to the regime's authorities. It has never been revealed what happened to Puig back in Cuba, or how he managed to show up in Mexico nearly two months later trying out for the Dodgers and other teams. The Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal on June 28, 2012, put him in the minors briefly, and for the past month he has been the best story in baseball. On Wednesday he was named the National League's player of the month.

In tonight's game, by the way, Puig hurt himself again — he banged his hip, came out of the game and is listed as day-to-day. The Dodgers won 10-8 despite a ragged start by Zack Greinke and have now won 10 of their last 11 games. They are 2.5 games out of first place.

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