FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Luis Tiant, the Red Sox Hall of Famer and Cuban legend, said he found out countryman Yoan Moncada was signing with the Red Sox on Sunday night, when he received a call from Ray Negron, his friend and special consultant to the Yankees, another team that went hard after the 19-year-old infielder.
"Ray said, ‘He’s going to sign with you guys because of you,'" Tiant said. “I guess they talked to the kid."
The Red Sox plan to give the switch-hitting Moncada a reported $31.5 million signing bonus, which reportedly was at least $6 million more than the Yankees were willing to give. Tiant laughed and said that may have made a bigger difference than he did in Moncada’s decision-making process.
But when Moncada was at JetBlue Park for a private workout a couple of weeks ago, the Red Sox made sure Tiant was there. Tiant had breakfast with Moncada, said David Hastings, a Florida-based certified public accountant who handled negotiations for the player.
“Luis Tiant is a great ambassador for the Red Sox," Hastings said Monday. “I don’t speak Spanish, so I don’t have a clue what they were talking about, but they struck up a pretty good friendship. And Luis stayed in the dugout almost the whole time, even though it was a cold and windy day."
Tiant said he didn’t stay to watch Moncada hit but saw everything else.
“He’s got talent," he said. “He played third base, shortstop, second base. He’s strong. He’s built. Nineteen years old, he’s a big kid."
Moncada is listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds.
“To me he looked like an intelligent kid, a good kid," Tiant said. “He wants to play. He’s a ballplayer. We talked, we took pictures, with him and his agent. Tall, good-looking kid. He looks like a good person."
When Tiant was 19, in 1960, he was pitching for the Mexico City Red Devils in the Mexican League. At the end of the 1961 season, he signed with the Indians for $35,000, and he made his big league debut for Cleveland in 1964.
“I need money like everybody else," said Tiant, now 74. “No matter Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, we’re all Latinos. We should help each other. It’s a good thing they don’t have to go through what we went through. All the years I played, 25 years, I didn’t make that kind of money.
“But good for them. I don’t have nothing against that. People say, You were born 20 years too early. I was born when God wanted me born. I enjoyed my time. I never thought I would do what I did. Maybe I didn’t make that kind of money, but I lived a good life. I still live a good life."