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LOCAL CONNECTION TO PUIG

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By Patrick Lujan

Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig had to battle the U.S. Coast Guard on numerous efforts to defect from Cuba to the states. (courtesy photo)

Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig had to battle the U.S. Coast Guard on numerous efforts to defect from Cuba to the states. (courtesy photo)

The biggest buzz in Major League Baseball has been the incredible eruption of Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. CNN/SI calls him the most interesting man in the baseball world these days.

A Cuban defector who made countless attempts to escape his island nation, Puig finally made it to the shores of America where he signed a $42 million contract with the Dodgers, and as they say, the rest is history.

It is during one of his attempts off the coast of Cuba where Guam Coast Guardsman Christopher Cruz was assigned to the CGC Vigilant where they intercepted a boat with precious Cuban cargo.

“While on patrol in the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba in April 2012,” said Cruz, who is now stationed on Guam. “Our lookout watch reported a contact that appeared to have departed out off Cuba based on the vessels course. We launched our law enforcement team to conduct a Right of Visit (ROV) boarding. On board the vessel were two Americans and about six Cuban nationals, including Yasiel.”

After bringing the defectors on to the vessel, Cruz said the crew felt they had someone of importance based on how the others were treating him.

Coast Guardman Christopher Cruz with his wife Grace Nangauta Cruz and twin sons Christopher Michael and Ken John in front of the Vigilant in Florida while stationed there in 2012. (courtesy photo)

Coast Guardman Christopher Cruz with his wife Grace Nangauta Cruz and twin sons Christopher Michael and Ken John in front of the Vigilant in Florida while stationed there in 2012. (courtesy photo)

“We immediately started to notice that they all treated one particular member of their party very differently than the others. This person was Yasiel. The others would take extra care of him by offering him their own food and blankets. Based on Yasiel’s physical appearance (6-foot-3, 245 lbs) we all suspected that was probably a professional athlete in Cuba trying to get to America to play. Little did we know at the time that we were 100% right.”

Cruz said that Puig’s stay on board before sending him back to Cuba was pleasant and that the rookie sensation was  cooperative, well-mannered and seemed to be a nice guy.

“If anything I think he was just bummed that they got caught. It wasn’t Yasiel’s first attempt to defect from Cuba, and we all knew it wouldn’t be his last. He was determined to make his dreams come true. We had a running joke on board that we should just let him go because he would be a millionaire one day, and maybe he would remember us as the guys that helped make his dreams come true. However, that would be completely unethical on our part. So, we did our job and repatriated him back to Cuba. A few months later we found out that he had finally made it to America and was being signed to a major league team. We were all very excited for him.”

Puig somehow made it to the states via Mexico and would not say how exactly – or how many times – he tried to escape Cuba.

All he’s done since hitting the big leagues is amaze the fans with his incredible feats on the diamond.puigmania

Since making his debut, Puig has led the majors in hits, batting average and slugging percentage (minimum 75 plate appearances) while leading the NL in on-base percentage.

It was Puig who stayed vigilant in pursuing his dream.

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