There’s no doubting the fact that Yoenis Cespedes had a tremendous first MLB season. The questions were swirling before he made his debut as to whether his talent with the Cuban national team would translate to Major League Baseball, and he exceeded everyone’s expectations. It wasn’t easy for him though, he battled injuries throughout the season as he tested his body in ways he had never done before. But little did we all know the mental and emotional weight that was on him as well.
As happens with many players who grow up in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cespedes was separated from his family when he defected from Cuba and began his path to his eventual destination in Oakland. Not many people can relate to an experience like that, and it had to be weighing heavily on his mind.
March 7, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) hits an RBI single in the third inning during a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
That’s what made the news on Sunday that 14 members of his family from Cuba were arriving in Miami to join Cespedes in the United States such a welcome sight. They had left Cuba a couple years ago, and had been in the islands of Turks and Caicos before arriving stateside this past weekend. There’s no telling the feeling of joy and relief this must have brought to Yoenis Cespedes. His three year old son and the mother of his son still reside in Cuba.
The grind of a MLB season is without a doubt one of the most difficult things an athlete can put himself through. The daily nature of the schedule leaves no room for rest. It is also a tremendous mental grind. Throughout the course of the season there are major peaks and valleys, and it is up to the player to make adjustments in order to minimize those valleys. If their efforts don’t succeed immediately in their efforts to make those adjustments, the toll it can take on a player’s psyche can be massive. So when a player not only has the grind of the season on their minds, but also has the uncertainty surrounding 14 members of their family in a different country to deal with, it’s no wonder he would have some struggles. This speaks to the ability of Yoenis Cespedes, and to his character as well that he can put together a season like he did with all these off the field issues on his mind, let alone in his rookie season. This doesn’t even take into account the ongoing dispute with his former agent over money the agent claimed Cespedes owed him. That issue has also been put to rest, so theoretically Cespedes should be free and clear going into 2013.
So now that he’s had an entire season under his belt, and knows what to expect from a baseball standpoint, he can continue to grow as a player. With his off the field issues taken care of, the chances of his talent showing through even more, and his production and value increasing exponentially are very high.
Yoenis Cespedes is a special player and a special individual. He is perhaps the most important member of the Oakland Athletics now and for years to come. With his mind clear to focus on baseball, there should only be good times ahead for both Cespedes and the Athletics.