Yasiel puig defected from cuba before signing with the dodgers. he knows enough about socialist utopias, bernie sanders how to make sugarcane juice at home

Sen. Bernie sanders, I-vt., must have missed that when he stopped by dodgers’ training camp sunday, because the democratic socialist has had nothing but praise for the regime puig fled.

A native of brooklyn and a fan of the dodgers before that team left for the west coast and long before puig defected, sanders felt comfortable enough to give batting advice. Maybe he even felt comfortable enough to share his thoughts about socialized healthcare, education, and markets on the communist island nation. Sanders hasn’t been shy about praising fidel and raul castro like they were both first-round picks.

"Everybody was totally convinced that castro was the worst guy in the world," sanders said back in 1980 while still a little-known mayor up in vermont. "All the cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against fidel castro.


They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them healthcare, totally transformed the society."

Felt comfortable

That transformation was so complete by the time puig was born a decade later that the baseball player would risk torture, life in prison, and perhaps death to escape. If there had been an interpreter nearby — puig speaks broken english at best — sanders might have heard that story.

Puig grew up on scorched diamonds where sugarcane doubled for outfield fencing and pick-up games ended when the sun went down. It was a caribbean "sandlot," entirely charming aside from the grinding poverty and police state characteristic of the communist regime. Later, puig would play semiprofessionally, even earning a spot on the cuban national baseball team at the 2008 world junior baseball championship. A top talent, he earned a whopping $17 a month. Then puig decided to defect.

The first time, someone tipped off the police. The second time, the boat didn’t show up. The third time, he ran into the coast guard and was arrested. The fourth time, he made it.Felt comfortable

Along with his best friend, his girlfriend, and his priest, puig hiked through wilderness patrolled by the cuban coast guard and marshes inhabited by crocodiles. This time they didn’t miss the boat and they didn’t run into the police. Mexican smugglers more accustomed to shipping cocaine than human cargo picked up puig and company. He had escaped cuba via the bay of pigs. It was april 2012.

A year later puig signed with the dodgers, or more accurately, as jesse katz explained in his wonderful profile for los angeles magazine, puig was sold by his smugglers to an agent for $250,000. He signed a seven-year deal with that club for $42 million a year later.

Since then, puig has been a prolific hitter, a voracious outfielder, and a candidate for rookie of the year. He hit .319 and homered 19 times in 104 games and was nicknamed “the wilde horse” by legendary broadcaster vin scully during his debut season. He also returned to the island, a trip made possible by the obama administration’s decision to thaw relations with cuba.Felt comfortable enough

But while puig has mostly stayed quite about politics, there’s no chance he has forgotten about life under castro. He knows all about the socialist utopia that sanders praises, and that’s why he escaped.

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