Yo's rise to king of cars a product of hard work

February 26th, 2016

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Yoenis Cespedes rolled up to Mets camp Friday in the usual way, music thumping from the custom speakers in his ride. This one was a baseball-themed Jeep Wrangler, worth $80,000 after the work he pumped into it. Previously, it was a lipstick-red Alfa Romeo, a satin-black Lamborghini, a Polaris Slingshot motorcycle and a Ford-F250 truck.
"Being in Cuba, I never thought I was going to be in the United States," Cespedes said through an interpreter, posing outside his Jeep for pictures. "After I got here, I saw the possibilities that I could have whatever I want, so I worked hard for it."
• Spring Training:Schedule | Tickets | More info
In Cuba, Cespedes says, he could never afford a car, so he rode a bike and walked. It was not until arriving in the United States in 2012 that Cespedes sought out Alex Vega of the Miami-based Auto Firm and bought his first vehicle, a Mercedes GL SUV.
"A soccer mom car," Vega said, laughing.

Cespedes found his car guy the usual way: through word of mouth in the clubhouse. A South Miami native, Vega began working in garages after graduating high school in 1992, catching his first break when a client showed his customized Bentley to NBA star Carlos Boozer. From there, Vega said, "it was one after another." Baseball became a breeding ground for sales; former Met Juan Uribe alone has customized 32 cars through Vega and his Avorza label.
"I grew up watching 'Starsky & Hutch,' 'Dukes of Hazzard,' 'The A-Team,' 'Knight Rider,'" Vega said. "All those cars, I would look at them and say, 'One day, I want to build cars like that that are going to be popular.'"
As Vega fulfilled that dream with athletes including Michael Jordan and Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cespedes grew into a star in his own right, making his first real splurge purchase on the Alfa Romeo. Next came the Lamborghini, then the Slingshot, then finally the Jeep, which Vega finished customizing this week. Even he was taken aback when Cespedes asked him to gut the Lamborghini and rebuild it from scratch, considering the car's roughly $400,000 retail value.

"The thing is, a lot of these athletes, they can all afford the same car," Vega said. "So what do you do? You make it different. It's still a Lamborghini, but it's one of a kind."
In all, Cespedes' six-car collection -- he'll be driving another one Saturday -- is worth around $1 million. And it has inspired interest, if not outright competition in Mets camp. Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon have also worked with Vega in the past, albeit on less flashy vehicles. Matt Harvey, who already drives a Maserati, may be next.
"I think he's worked really hard for it," Vega said of Cespedes' collection. "A guy like him and a lot of these guys, they grow up not ever thinking they're going to have a car like that. To be able to have what you want -- we love rides, we love what we drive. It's big."