This winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers star outfielder granted ESPN an “all-access” window into his life as he enters his third season. ESPN Digital anchor Antonietta “Toni” Collins, feature producer Gustavo Coletti and highlights producer Nelson Sealy are telling the Cuban’s story – in Spanish with English subtitles – via features showcased on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The next segment airs Monday on SportsCenter.
Collins and Coletti provide Front Row a peek behind the scenes of the project.
How did the idea of profiling Puig develop?
GC: The project came to the Feature Unit via Nelson Sealy, a highlights producer for SportsCenter who had worked for various Major League teams. His connections with some of the game’s biggest names was instrumental in getting Puig’s camp to give us this unprecedented access. Since Puig’s arrival to the big leagues, he’s had a stormy relationship with the media, mostly because of the cultural and language barrier. So having the ability to gain his trust in allowing us to get a closer look into his everyday life was key in getting the project moving forward. The idea wasn’t so much to do a profile on him, but rather see who he is now, where he lives and how he lives.
How much time have you gotten with Puig?
AC: We’ve had the opportunity to meet with Yasiel on two occasions. The first was in Miami, and the purpose of this shoot was to show folks exactly what a “typical” offseason day is for Puig. [In January] he welcomed us into his Miami home where he lives with his parents and sister. We had no restrictions as to what we could shoot. Our day with Puig started at 8 a.m. and it finished close to 11 p.m.
Our second shoot was in Arizona for spring training. In this shoot, we had access to his training from early in the morning as well as a sit down interview after practice. Having met with him in the offseason helped as we had that trust and familiarity with him. We weren’t exactly sure as to how much time we would have for the sit down but when it was all said and done, our interview went well past an hour.
What will viewers see in the SportsCenter segment airing on Monday?
GC: This is the second excerpt cut for SportsCenter. The first, which aired in early March, was centered on his relationship with kids during an impromptu baseball game with a little league team in Miami.
This upcoming segment is centered on Cuban baseball and an animated conversation Puig had with a Dominican friend during dinner at a Miami restaurant – while eating delicious Cuban food – in which they discuss a hypothetical game between the Dominican Republic and a Cuban team with all its MLB stars. Puig also addresses the possibility of playing for the Cuban National Team in the future.