Monday, February 18, 2013

Boy to Man

From "Yasiel Puig, Eddie Oropesa: In Dodgers camp they're perfect match" by Bill Plaschke at the LA Times:

Puig, 22, needed a baby sitter. Oropesa, 41, needed a final triumph in a game that once broke his heart. It was a match made in the imagination of Watson and scouting director Logan White, who arranged for the pairing late last summer when they realized that Puig's rough edges could risk not only the Dodgers' huge investment, but their foreign-market credibility.

"It's about cultural assimilation," says Watson. "We needed someone to help Puig grow."

When Puig was signed in June, he was so unaware of American baseball, he didn't know the Dodgers' colors were blue and white. He had not played in the Cuban league in more than a year as punishment for an earlier attempt to defect. Despite an oversized contract that the Dodgers handed him as a statement for all Latin American prospects, he remained, by most accounts, lonely and confused.

Oropesa knew the feelings. As a 22-year-old Cuban pitcher, he defected in full uniform by leaping a fence behind home plate before a game in Buffalo, N.Y. His wife and family were punished, prevented from leaving Cuba for three years. His potential star career began with a distracted start from which it only scarcely recovered, as he ended it with an 8-4 record over four major league seasons.

"What Puig is going through now, the same thing happened to me 20 years ago," Oropesa says. "I want him to learn from me."

Glad to see the Dodgers are protecting their investment. Now, does Justin Sellers get an accountablity partner too?