Dodgers’ Spirited Yasiel Puig: ‘i’m Merely Me’|daily Globe|

“Are you ready?” a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ public relations staff asked Puig. Puig, the team’s 23-year-old star Cuban outfielder, gave a quizzical look. Then he grinned. Clearly, as much as the PR woman understood why Puig is sporting a fresh haircut with the star, Puig understood the question. Is he ready for the All-Star Game in Minneapolis – and his biggest stage yet? Today, Puig is scheduled to compete in the Home Run Derby. Tuesday, he will start in the outfield for the National League. Both days, he will be the subject of much attention, a fact one of his agents made sure to pass along. “I told him, ‘Hey, there’s going to be a lot of eyes on you at the All-Star Game,'” said Andy Mota of Wasserman Media Group, which represents Puig. “Everything you do, everything you saya?” There is little concern about what Puig will do on the field, where he performs as if designed by DreamWorks: Displays of acrobatics and raw power, all accentuated by bat-flipping, finger-kissing celebrations. His Instagram and Twitter accounts transmit images almost as arresting, extending a personal brand best described as unadulterated fun. Look, there’s Puig in the snow! And at the zoo…on the New York subway…mugging with celebrities as diverse as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Snoop Dogg…hugging the Stanley Cup. And then, there’s Puig signing autographs, buying baseball equipment for children and cradling puppies. All of which contrasts sharply with the Puig who occasionally rankles teammates, mystifies the Dodgers and keeps a wary arm’s length from the news media. As a pre-arranged interview was to commence before a game last week, Puig closed his eyes, as if nodding off. “He’s tired,” a PR staffer said sheepishly – and no one knew what to expect next despite signs of change. There is a new regard for the cutoff man and a more disciplined approach to hitting. “His patience at the plate has really been shocking, a quick adjustment,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “The other part is just paying attention, slowing down a little bit and playing under control.” There is a new willingness to listen to teammates. “The things we share with him are situations after they happen, kind of be able to reflect on them,” Dodgers first basemen Adrian Gonzalez said. “Explain to him why he did this good or why he shouldn’t have done this.” There is a new understanding of publicity, said Yvonne Carrasco of the Dodgers’ PR staff, and she cites a recent request from Nickelodeon. The cable network asked if Puig would participate in a segment to introduce its Kids’ Choice Sports Awards. If the request came last year, Carrasco said, no chance. This yeara? With the Nickelodeon crew ready to film, Puig broke from the script. He picked up 11-year-old Breanna Yde, who stars on one of the cable network’s shows, and used her as a weight while performing arm curls. He did push-ups with her on his back. He followed along when she taught him her version of a home-run celebration dance. “You could tell he’s a big kid at heart with a great sense of humor, and it’s no wonder he has a huge appeal with kids,” Jay Schmalholz, an executive producer for Nickelodeon, said via e-mail. So even as Puig pretended to nod off last weekend, he quickly did something he’s doing with greater regularity. Open his eyes. To his day-to-day responsibilities, to those who can help him, and to those he can help. Stirring to the moment, Puig addressed several topics with USA TODAY Sports with help from an interpreter while speaking in Spanish. *** OPEN TO ADVICE Puig’s offseason was marked by a 26-pound weight gain and a reckless driving arrest after police clocked him driving 110 mph in Florida.
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