published Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Big All-Star push for former Chattanooga Lookout, Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig breaks his bat as he hits a single against the San Francisco Giants.
Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig breaks his bat as he hits a single against the San Francisco Giants.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
VOTE ONLINE

Votes can be made at www.mlb.com.

PASADENA, Calif. — If Lorena Ramos has any influence, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig will win the fan voting for a spot on the All-Star team.

The 38-year-old season-ticket holder estimates she has texted 5,000 times on Puig’s behalf to ensure he lands the last roster spot on the National League team for next week’s game at Citi Field in New York.

Ramos was working her phone some more in between watching the Dodgers’ road game at Arizona on Tuesday night from Barney’s Beanery in Old Town Pasadena, along with other blue-and-white-clad fans.

“He’s exciting. He brings a lot of energy to the game,” said Ramos, who lives in South Gate.

The viewing and voting party was the second of three hosted by the Dodgers around the Los Angeles area to give Puig a final push in the balloting, which ends Thursday at 1 p.m. PDT.

He needs it, too. Having come to the Dodgers from the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts at the beginning of June, he trailed first-place Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves entering Tuesday, when more than 33.2 million votes had been cast.

“I vote every day until I get tired,” said Priscilla Cabrera of Silver Lake, who made up her face in blue, red and white paint with Puig’s No. 66 in white on her right cheek. She carried a sign that played on the phrase, yes we can, doctoring it to read in Spanish, “Si Se Puige!”

Cabrera uses her cellphone and iPad to vote, estimating she’s punched in the code for Puig more than 1,000 times.

“Ever since he got to the Dodgers, he’s had this impact that has lifted the whole team up from the slump that they were in,” the 20-year-old college student said.

The Dodgers have climbed from last place in the NL West to second behind leading Arizona going into the teams’ game Tuesday.

Puig came into Tuesday night’s game — his 34th in the big leagues — batting .409 with 19 RBIs and eight home runs. He got called up from the minors last month and immediately caused a sensation with his hitting and fielding and his youthful enthusiasm.

His base hit in the first inning drew cheers from the bar crowd, many of whom sported T-shirts bearing his name.

“He’s so electric; he’s so fresh,” marveled Ryan Rossi, a 22-year-old college student from Pasadena who wore a Puig T-shirt. “He’s got a future in the league and it’s nice to see this on the Dodgers, because we’ve been pretty bad.”

Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, whose locker is next to Puig’s in the clubhouse, also is a candidate for the last NL All-Star spot, but he’s already thrown his support, and vote, behind the Cuban defector.

“I think Adrian is going to be the odd man out,” former Dodgers star Steve Garvey said.

Garvey, who made the 1974 All-Star Game as a write-in candidate, was on hand at the bar as honorary campaign manager. He disagrees with critics, including some managers, who say Puig hasn’t been in the big leagues long enough to merit an All-Star berth.

“They don’t really understand this is the entertainment business,” Garvey said. “This is our showcase. It’s an international league now with international players. It’s good for the game. If you’re the National League, you want him on your team because you want to win.”

Garvey tossed in a plug for Puig to participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby.

“You can’t sneak a 100-mph fastball past this guy,” he said.

Janet Luke of Alta Loma has seen a lot of Dodgers come and go since she first became a fan in 1962, and she hopes the 22-year-old Cuban right fielder has staying power.

“I just don’t want him to be a flash in the pan,” she said. “He’s so young. I hope he makes good choices.”

That said, the 66-year-old woman is backing Puig to the hilt.

“I voted for him until my fingers fell off,” Luke said. “He’s ignited the spirit of baseball for all the fans. The sport needs somebody like him to keep it alive.”

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