Puig follows big league dream to All-Star Game
Slugger recalls watching 2011 Derby, asks champ Cano to borrow his pitcher dad
MINNEAPOLIS -- Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig remembers getting to see glimpses of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game when he was in his native Cuba.
"The one I really remember was 2011 with the Home Run Derby," he said, "with David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano."
Oh yes, Cano, whose father, Jose, a former big league pitcher, pitched while his son hit 12 home runs in the final round to beat Gonzalez and win the Derby title.
Now Puig and Cano are both All-Stars, and it was Cano's father who pitched to Puig in Monday night's Gillette Home Run Derby as a prelude to the All-Star Game at Target Field on Tuesday night.
The perhaps overeager Dodgers slugger recorded seven Derby outs without a homer, but his All-Star experience isn't done, as he'll join Dodgers teammates Dee Gordon, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on the National League squad on Tuesday. For Puig, the Cuban defector in his second year with the Dodgers, earning his first All-Star appearance has been particularly pleasing because it is the All-Star farewell for Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who will retire at season's end.
"It was an honor for me to meet him last year, and now for me to be in my first All-Star Game when he is in his final All-Star Game makes me very humbled," Puig said through an interpreter. "Jeter has been the face of baseball since I can remember."
The face, however, is changing.
Jeter is moving on.
Some suggest that Puig could be the new face of the game.
Puig, however, isn't buying that.
"I don't see myself that way," he said. "The face of baseball, that is Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. They are the ones who have established themselves, not me."
Puig, however, is a part of a Cuban power trio that is making its presence felt in Major League Baseball. In addition to Puig on the NL team, the Home Run Derby has countrymen Yoenis Cespedes of the A's and Jose Abreu of the White Sox on the American League squad.
"It is an honor for us to be there among so many great players," Puig said. "We are all trying hard to make Cuba look good."
Puig, 23, is the youngest of the group, and he is the most flamboyant on the field.
The flamboyance, however, gave way to humility during Monday's Gatorade All-Star Workout Day.
"This is definitely the biggest moment of my career, right after last year winning in the [first round] of the playoffs and the champagne celebration," Puig said. "This will be the best moment until we play in and win the World Series."
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.