Puig makes visit to MLB Urban Youth Academy
Star outfielder signs autographs, meets with children in Compton's Community Day
COMPTON -- Yasiel Puig, long used to the spotlight cast upon him during his spectacular rookie season, seemed even more in his element Saturday when he paid a 90-minute visit to the MLB Urban Youth Academy to take part in Compton's second Annual Community Day at the facility.
The Dodgers' outfield prodigy took hundreds of pictures, posed as well as impromptu, with admiring youngsters of all ages, creating countless postings to Facebook and Instagram, and just as many lasting memories.
Puig also pitched to a couple of the children, then sat on the floor in a reading club class, ages 4-10, listening as they read from books with kids seated on his lap and others hanging on his shoulders.
"The academy invited me to be here, and I came because I love kids," Puig said in a brief interview session, before going to Dodger Stadium for the Dodgers FanFest.
"I'm happy to be here with the kids, because I was a kid myself," he said. "I like to see their smiles."
Puig signed everything thrown his way, baseballs and softballs mostly. He also paused between pictures to kneel and tie the baseball shoe of a star-struck 9-year-old, who later got to take a few swings when Puig tossed some batting practice. When the boy lifted a short pop-up, Puig caught it behind his back. He pitched underhand to a softball player, and she hit a drive into the bevy of onlookers standing on the infield.
One boy, much younger, was a bit shy when it came time for his turn for a personal photo with Puig. Perhaps it was because the youngster was wearing an Andre Ethier No. 16 jersey. Puig quickly broke the ice with a huge smile.
"Just seeing their reaction when they meet a big leaguer makes me happy," Puig said.
Puig seemed the most at ease when he posed for pictures with the Hamilton High School team that had scrimmaged for two hours during an umpiring clinic -- probably because they were close in age to the 23-year-old star from Cuba.
Even the adult celebrities wanted their quality moment with Puig, however brief. Two-time National League batting champion and three-time NL All-Star Tommy Davis, 74, who was representing the Dodgers at the community celebration, slipped into the crowded reading room to greet Puig. Ken Landreaux, 59, another former Dodgers outfielder -- he teaches hitting at the Urban Youth Academy -- was waiting his turn just outside the room.
Before he left for Dodger Stadium, Puig said he would pay the academy another visit before the start of the 2014 season when he returned from Spring Training in Arizona.