Boisterous celebrations, lighthearted trash-talk and screaming—lots of screaming: The inner sanctum of Yasiel Puig—baseball’s tongue-wagging, coach-smooching oracle of joy—is exactly what you’d expect.
Standing outside a Spanish-style home in Avondale, Arizona, a cutoff throw from Reds spring training HQ, I ring a doorbell, which sets off a series of blood-curdling screams inside. The front door cracks ajar. It’s Yasiel Puig. “Hey, what are you doing here?” he asks.
Well, I tell him, I’m here for the Puig Party, an almost-daily soiree hosted by one of the most colorful characters in baseball. The Reds’ prized offseason addition was set to host me in Los Angeles earlier this year before a trade sent him, along with fellow Dodgers Matt Kemp, Alex Woods and Kyle Farmer, to Cincinnati. Ring a bell?
“Oh, yeah. Come in,” Puig says. “I’m killing my cousin in FIFA right now.”
2:45: ROOKIE ORIENTATION
Dios mio! I’m on a living room couch with Farmer, a regular at the House of Puig, assessing the three-ring circus around us: “You just never know who’s gonna show up.”
Among those on hand today: Puig’s mother, Maritza; his girlfriend, Andrea; their boys, Danny, 2, and Damian, 1; Puig’s cousin Ramon; Tim Bravo, whose shiny head has donned many hats, including Dodgers director of cultural assimilation and just plain “teacher,” as Yasiel calls him; and Turner Ward, the Dodgers-turned-Reds hitting coach and Puig’s “kissing buddy,” notable for their celebratory dugout smooches after Puig’s dingers.
“Life is better with friends and family,” the 28-year-old Puig says. Farmer adds that his life is better with Puig in it: “He was my favorite part of the trade. He pretty much brought the spirit that he had with the Dodgers over …” Crap, I can hardly hear Farmer over Puig’s incessant shouting. “He’s always yelling,” Farmer confirms.
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