In just a few hours a new Major League season will commence, this year will undoubtedly be historic for Cubans who play in the Big Show. New sensations will debut, some players have changed teams, some records will be broken and many more occurrences will keep us tuned in for the next seven months.
Yulieski Gurriel is one of those Cuban baseball players who is a polarizing figure to the multitude of fans, he has plenty of followers as well as detractors. In 2023, at the age of 39 , he is heading to his eighth season in MLB, but this year will be different, he will have the challenge of trying to make his mark in a new organization, the Miami Marlins.
Despite not having had a good Spring Training, due to the fact the signed with the club late into preseason the native of Sancti Spíritus earned a roster spot with the fish. Gurriel who will be used primarily as a first baseman or a DH hit .227 with one RBI in 22 at bats this spring.
Yuli Gurriel haciendo Labores defensivas en la tercera base junto a Jean Segura. Previamente lo habia hecho en la inicial. pic.twitter.com/v660E9mDFG— Yordano Carmona (@YordiMLB) March 27, 2023
A few days ago his manager (Skip Schumaker) offered words of praise for him: “His defense is TOP, I don’t care what any metric says. He can play third, second or first. He is that type of athlete, he is very complete. For the team it was necessary to play him at first in Houston, but if you see him take ground balls, he can play multiple positions. He’s a good baseball player, that’s the way he is, plus he’s a winning baseball player.”
Last Monday the 27th, Pelota Cubana was able to speak with Gurriel, after an inter-squad game that took place at LoanDepot Park and he offered us the following statements:
How have you felt with the Marlins since you arrived and how did you feel in that intersquad game where you hit a home run in two at-bats?
“Well I have felt quite good, I think that since I joined the team I have felt harmonious, they have given me a great welcome and I really feel much better than I thought”.
It is your eighth season that is coming up, you’ve two World Series, batting championship, gold glove, what motivates to continue to play at 39?
“The love for baseball is still there, which is the main thing, when you have a very long career that is one of the things you lose, but not me, the same hunger from the first day and winning also motivates me to continue playing, which is the main thing”.
You have been with Miami for three weeks, how complicated it is to change organizations, how strange was it for you and how long do you think it will take to you to adapt to this new place?
“Coming to the US from Cuba was a big change, but it is very different here, seven years on the same team, there are many things that change at the beginning and I think it takes time adapt to your new surroundings, unfortunately I arrived here a little late, so that makes it even more difficult, but my teammates, the Latinos, the Americans too, have given me a very big welcome, as I said, I thought it was going to be different, the adaptation has been faster than I thought, for that very reason, The harmonious atmosphere here is quite pleasant”.
“It’s quite a benefit to be here in Miami, because this is where I live, also there are several people on the staff here who are from Houston, so that makes things a little easier because they know me, they know how I work which is important. Changes are always difficult at first, but I’ll do my best to adapt them as quickly as possible”.
Yuli, bring that winning mentality, you come from an organization that since you arrived the only thing it did was win, win and win; now you are in a different situation, this is a team that wants to win, but it has been difficult for them?
That’s right, I came here an organization that has been very successful and I really don’t know anything other than being on a winning team. I come to a team that is in a process, but it is not a change that is just beginning now, the team is quite advanced in the process they managed to acquire several key bats in the last two years, the pitching has always been there and I think this team can better than people expect.”
This park is considered to be for pitchers park, what did you know about this stadium before playing ?
“Well, I have only played three games here and it is indeed a fairly large stadium, the pitchers have a little more advantage over the hitters, but well that is one of the things that one has to get out of his head and deal with, but since it’s quite big it also favors me a bit, because you can take advantage of the gaps a lot, I’m a player who hits a lot of doubles and so believe I can take advantage of that in this park”.