Cuban baseball phenom Yoan Moncada may be taking his talents to South Carolina.
After the Boston Red Sox had a press conference to officially welcome Moncada to the organization, Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reported that the 19-year-old infielder will likely be playing for the Class-A affiliate the Greenville Drive in the South Atlantic League. The switch-hitting Moncada signed a minor league contract “to a record $31.5 million deal on Thursday night after coming to terms with him on a deal Feb. 22.”
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told Edes that they were not sure when Moncada will be assigned to Greenville’s roster or any other minor affiliate. “There’s a chance he could remain in extended spring, given that he has not played in competition since December, 2013, when he left his team in Cuba’s Serie Nacionale, Cienfuegos.” That means South Carolina better put any plans for welcoming Moncada on April 9th, against Augusta in the home opener, on the back burner. The feast may not be ready, just yet:
"“Obviously, given the investment we’re making we believe he can be a very good major-league player for a long time and we’re committed to helping him get there, in the right way” – Ben Cherington"
The city of Greenville holds roughly just above 61 000 people, who are just waiting to see for themselves the skill set that the media continues to praise about Moncada. His abilities have been widely compared to the levels of a young Robinson Cano, a lofty relation to say the least.
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Moncada said, “I’m looking forward for the opportunity of just being with this organization and very thankful to everyone with the Red Sox who made that possible.” Yet, it may be a while until he can repay his new employers for that lucrative contract. And while fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo will be a great bridge between cultures, as Moncada meets the big-name players and the U.S. media, the young man will be very far from his family and friends in South Carolina, if that is his destination. Life will be very difficult for Moncada, as he tries to adapt to a new country as well as a new team.
Today’s press conference was vital for all interested parties, as much as it seemed one of many forgettable moments of spring training. Moncada may not play as well as expected, but if he does, today was the official moment that he started the journey. This timeline marker also serves as Moncada’s introduction into how the business of baseball functions, with the media asking as many questions as they can about anything they can get from you. When the lights shine too bright, the stars may burn out. The faster that Moncada absorbs the proper technique for the media process, the faster he can put all of the distractions to the side and play baseball.
And it may be a while before the same amount of cameras will be on him, although there likely will be many, still. The very next time he does play, it may be in a city without the glitz and glamour of the American dream and very much to do with the heart of the American identity. A healthy dose of Americana pie could be a grand time or a cultural shell shock for someone so young and so far from his home.