CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Serving the final game of a three-game suspension, Yasiel Puig didn't have any baseball-related obligations as the Cleveland Indians prepared to face the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
So the Indians' right fielder used the opportunity to do something meaningful with his time. A little more than an hour before first pitch between Cleveland and Boston at Progressive Field, Puig took to Instagram to reveal that he has become a United States citizen as he posted a picture of himself -- and his signature red mohawk -- holding an American flag.
Puig is the fourth member of the Indians roster to become a United States citizen this season, joining first baseman Carlos Santana, relief pitcher Oliver Perez and former designated hitter Hanley Ramirez.
A native of Cuba, Puig's journey to becoming a United States citizen was a long one.
Following a breakout performance in the 2009-10 Cuban National Series, Puig attempted -- and failed -- to defect to Mexico four times in hopes of signing with a Major League team. As detailed by both ESPN The Magazine and Los Angeles Magazine, his fifth attempt was successful after he was smuggled in by the murderous Mexican cartel known as "Los Zetas."
Further complicating Puig's defection was that it was allegedly organized by a "small-time crook" in Miami named Raul Pacheco, who was set to earn 20 percent of Puig's MLB earnings. According to L.A. Magazine, court records show that as of 2014, Puig had paid Pacheco $1.3 million and has since been subjected to lawsuits and threats as the result of his escape.
In 2012, Puig signed his first Major League contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who he played for from 2013-2018, becoming the franchise's all-time leader in postseason games played. Last winter, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, who he played 100 games with -- the last of which, he was ejected for fighting and ultimately suspended three games for -- before being traded to Cleveland in a three-team deal just prior to last month's MLB Trade Deadline.
Thus far, the former All-Star's Indians stint has gotten off to a red hot start, as he's hit for a .357 average (.984 OPS) with 1 home run and 6 RBIs in 11 games.
In that span, Cleveland caught the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central, although the Indians enter Wednesday's matchup with Boston a half-game back of the top spot in their division.