I’m Yasiel Puig, outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I’m also a father, a son and a comedian. The great Vin Scully used to call me the Wild Horse because of the way I played. It’s time for me to be that caballo again — that horse again.
I want to get back to that place where I had more focus, more discipline at the plate, more discipline with my teammates. Being at the stadium on time to prepare every day is what helps you succeed, and that’s what I want to do this year. Sounds easy doesn’t it? I know it is. That’s why I know I’ll do it.
My motivation is my new son — I already have a 3-year-old, Diego Alejandro — and now I have my baby boy Daniel Sebastián. But it’s not just my family. I’m also getting support from my teammates and guys from other teams like Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols and people that have been in the game for a while like Manny Mota, Steve Garvey and Tommy Lasorda. I know there are a lot of people that care about me and my success. I’m starting to realize that more and more each year.
I also feel like I have to prove to myself that I can be a better teammate and that I can play better baseball. I want to play more games this year, not to get hurt, keep my diet, keep stretching and keep preparing physically for every game, so God willing, I can have my best year in 2017. That’s my personal challenge. It’s hard to be the Wild Horse that Vin Scully called me when I can’t stay on the field.
I’m also trying to contribute off the field. My foundation, the Wild Horse Foundation, was named in Vin Scully’s honor. It’s a good reminder of what he saw when I was a rookie and what I can be again. The reason I started the Wild Horse Foundation is because I like helping people. Back in Cuba, I didn’t have the school or sports supplies or the food that I needed, so that’s what I want to give to the community in Los Angeles, Miami and with Manny Mota in the Dominican Republic. Charity work is important. I’ve been very fortunate. I know others are not as lucky I as I am.
We have a poker tournament at Dodger Stadium on May 22, a fundraiser for the kids. It’s important for me to help children focus in school and on sports so they don’t get involved in the bad things in life that come when you don’t have anything to do in your free time.
I am who I am. I understand everyone has an opinion of me, like I have my opinion on other players. I’d like to please everyone, but that’s just not possible because half of the world likes you and the other half doesn’t so you just have to leave it in God’s hands. My job is to keep getting better as a person on and off the field, in the community, with children and my elders. God has the last word, and he’ll pick where he wants to put me.
There is a passion I have and we have as Latinos because we love to have fun, we love to show our joy on the field, and I think sometimes that confuses people. Sometimes, other teams get upset with our bat flips or expressions, but that’s how we show our joy. The pitcher can strike you out four times in a game so we like to show our joy when we hit that one home run. Baseball is fun. It’s exciting. I enjoy it. It’s a game.
I know I’m not alone. We Cubans have a future here, and our families have better lives now thank God. Now, Cuban guys like Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes are having great careers in the big leagues, and there are lots of Latino players doing the same. We are going to enjoy our time in this game.
It’s no secret that being a professional baseball player has been a process for me, and I have to thank Adrian Gonzalez for keeping me on track. It’s know it’s hard for him to support me and try to guide me when I haven’t listened in the past, but I feel like I’m finally paying attention and I’ve been playing better baseball and learning because of it. When you’re on the field, you can get caught in the moment and you lose track of things, but Adrian and all my teammates haven’t given up on me and for that I am very grateful. They deserve the best of me in return.
Personally, I hope to be in Miami to play in the All-Star Game. When you’re in the All-Star Game, it almost feels like you’re back in your country with your people because everyone has fun, enjoys every moment with things like bat flips and no one gets upset. That’s how we like to play and that’s how we should be playing baseball. I also have some unfinished business in the Home Run Derby. The only home run I hit was a foul ball!
What matters most to us is winning the World Series. It’s been 30 years since we’ve won a championship, and we can’t wait any longer. I hope to be wearing Dodger blue for a long time, and I want the first of many championships — God willing — to come with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s what this Wild Horse wants the most.
By Yasiel Puig