This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue 2018. This interview was conducted in Spanish and translated.
Way back in 2013, when Yasiel Puig made his debut for the Dodgers, the right fielder seemed destined to be one of the biggest personalities in baseball. Five years (and one Body Issue photo shoot) later, the charismatic Cuban star has not disappointed. Puig carved out some time during his season to talk with Nación ESPN reporter Pilar Perez about body love, his weakness for croquetas, and slamming into all those outfield walls.
I don't like to go to the gym or anything like that. Everything that I have is because God gave it to me. But I have to try to take care of my body a bit more. I am still young, so I can still abuse my body, but not that much.
I don't consider myself from this world. Sometimes I think I come from Mars because some of the knocks I take on the field that would leave some of my teammates, or any other person, in pain don't hurt me. I can take it and keep playing. When my trainer gives me a massage, I tell him, "Hey, I don't feel anything." He says, "Look, I've treated many clients, and all I have to do is just touch them and they are screaming. With you I have to keep going." Even he realizes and says, "You must not be from here."
When I was playing in Cuba, I was running into [stadium] walls because we didn't have cushions like they have in the stadiums here. I believe that whatever I was going to break, I broke when I ran into those walls. So when I see the walls here that are much softer, it's like my body says, "Oh, I didn't feel anything!"
Since I play baseball, I don't need a sexy body. Well, I need to be sexy, but those guys who go to the gym and are always showing off their body and say "I have a six pack," I am not like that.
I can't worry about the things people around me say. I have always been free and transparent. Don't pay attention to the critics or the people who are outside the field of play. When you are the way God brought you into this world, there is no weight bearing down on you. Just have fun in the moment.
I need everything to play sports. Any athlete, be it Yasiel Puig or any other athlete, they need their entire body. If you have problems with your feet, you can't run. If you have problems with your hands, you can't pitch or bat. You can even add the mind as well, because without a clear and focused mind, you will be unable to do all the things that can be done if your body is at 100 percent. I don't use my brain that much; I should in order to do better things on the field.
The year before last, I ate a lot of croquetas in Miami. I gained a lot of weight. And that affected my hamstrings. So I had to ask my chef to start cooking healthier food, and that's how I was able to play most of the games last year.
When I want to lose weight, my chef is in charge of that. We have some juices. I don't know what he puts in them, but they keep me in shape. They also offer me a great deal of energy to keep working. He is the one who gives me the food to gain or to lose weight. Although to gain weight, I don't really need him -- when I go to Miami or Europe, I gain weight very easily. Lots of pizza and lasagna.
Right now there are a lot of ballplayers who are very skinny, some are a little chubby. My boy Dee Gordon is really skinny. He's a good ballplayer; he plays baseball the way it should be played. If you want to go to the other extreme, you have my buddy Bartolo Colon. He's chubby, but he keeps working hard. That is what keeps him playing baseball at 45. People ask, "Hey how can he still be playing baseball?" He's worked a great deal to maintain his body the way it is.
I don't know anything about my weight or my muscle. Two years ago, I didn't feel overweight, but the scale showed I was. My coach said, "You are overweight." I said, "Hey, but I play like that. What can you do?" I just play with the body I was given, how I feel good. I don't know if playing heavier or lighter is better. What I do not have is a lot of fat. I usually have my body fat percentage at 6 or 7 percent. My trainer says that is very good.
When I go to the gym I try to work on my legs because of the issues I have had with my hamstrings. This way I can help my body and legs to stay as healthy as possible in order for me to play 162 games and help my team win the championship that we are so eager to obtain.
You can't compare an athlete to a normal person because going to a regular job isn't going to make you lose weight. Going to your office and eating at McDonald's and drinking Coke isn't going to make you lose weight. If we go to McDonald's and drink a Coke and then we go and run, we burn it off, understand?
You cannot feel bad or embarrassed for the body you have. It doesn't matter what type of body you have, what race you are, if you are a man, woman, gay -- if your friends or your husband or wife love you, that is most important. We only have one life, so it doesn't matter how you look.
For more from the 2018 Body Issue, pick up a copy on newsstands starting June 29.
Set Design by JC Molina; Grooming by Jeannia Robinette/Art Department; Hair by Johnny Blade