The Guy is a Veritable Adonis er Adolis: Adolis Garcia

Adolis Garcia w Ciego de Avila via Phil Selig

As I have immersed myself in Cuba’s baseball culture I have become fascinated with certain quirks. One that I love is the naming culture. The Gurriel brothers Yuniesky, Yulieski and Yunito are a perfect example. I have met Noelvis and Yoelvis. I have learned that often there are multiple spellings. Spelled Yoelkis Céspedes for the longest time has now given way to Yoelqui Céspedes. Take a pair of brothers from Ciego de Avila in Jose Adonis Garcia (Atlanta Braves) and Jose Adolis Garcia (Cardinals & Rangers). They both left Cuba in the 2010s to pursue a Major League Baseball path.

Over the years and my many voyages I have correctly identified future stars. If I said I was always accurate or aware of every player in advance or in the aftermath, that would be a lie. I use pneumonic devices or mechanisms to remember names. In this scenario I was aware of Adonis before, remembering Adolis became that much easier.

January 2016 was one of the more pivotal trips I’ve made to Havana. It cemented the fact that I was truly seeing and capturing something unique. I got to see Ciego de Avila square off against Industriales in a series of games. I was quite aware of Yulieski Gurriel at this point. He hit a walkoff homerun in the Sunday game. This was a month before he and brother Lourdes Jr. would walk away from Cuba. This was also a major signal that things were truly changing.

The Gurriel’s were considered the first family of Cuban baseball. If a deal to send players to MLB legally was imminent the big prize would have been the pair of brothers originally from Sancti Spiritus. They were hardly the only prize. And hardly the only players to risk much to get to America and the top baseball league in the world. Back to my previous point of how I’d be lying if I said I was aware either before or immediately after of the future Pros I was seeing that January.

Some estimates peg 300 players having left Cuba between 2015 and 2017. Many of them obviously have become big if not household names. More are still working their way to The Show and others have faded into obscurity. To this day, names pop up in the MLB sphere that I go back and realize I saw that day. Many of these players I remember most vividly through my camera lens.

Hasuan Viera w Industriales via Phil Selig

Hasuan Viera is a perfect example of a young Cuban ball player that most haven’t heard of. He is currently working his way through the Texas Rangers system. That Ciego de Avila Tigres squad won multiple championships in the mid 2010’s. A number of young transcendent talents powered their run. This despite the defection of a player many or at least the Boston Red Sox considered a generational talent in Rusney Castillo.

Castillo left Cuba in 2013 and signed for big dollars. He would find himself buried in the Minor Leagues though. He may have been the victim of a management change and the lofty expectations of a huge contract. More on what his path might represent in a bit. Had Castillo stayed, the Tigres may have trotted out an Impressive outfield. He would have joined 2020 Super rookie Luis Robert and Right Fielder Jose Adolis Garcia. They were still a mini-dynasty as veteran and recently retired Yoelvis Fiss represented a dynamite outfield alignment with Robert & Garcia.

José Adolis Garcia was named the MVP for the 2016/2017 Season. His 14 home runs and 71 RBI’s along with his .319/.399/.523 batting line were key in Ciego’s run to the league championship. He remains the only Tigre to win the award. Garcia would sign in Japan for a decent pay day while still being able to return to his home in Cuba.

Jose Adolis Garcia w Ciego via Phil Selig

Adolis Garcia w Ciego de Avila via Phil Selig

As I have immersed myself in Cuba’s baseball culture I have become fascinated with certain quirks. One that I love is the naming culture. The Gurriel brothers Yuniesky, Yulieski and Yunito are a perfect example. I have met Noelvis and Yoelvis. I have learned that often there are multiple spellings. Spelled Yoelkis Céspedes for the longest time has now given way to Yoelqui Céspedes. Take a pair of brothers from Ciego de Avila in Jose Adonis Garcia (Atlanta Braves) and Jose Adolis Garcia (Cardinals & Rangers). They both left Cuba in the 2010s to pursue a Major League Baseball path.

Over the years and my many voyages I have correctly identified future stars. If I said I was always accurate or aware of every player in advance or in the aftermath, that would be a lie. I use pneumonic devices or mechanisms to remember names. In this scenario I was aware of Adonis before, remembering Adolis became that much easier.

January 2016 was one of the more pivotal trips I’ve made to Havana. It cemented the fact that I was truly seeing and capturing something unique. I got to see Ciego de Avila square off against Industriales in a series of games. I was quite aware of Yulieski Gurriel at this point. He hit a walkoff homerun in the Sunday game. This was a month before he and brother Lourdes Jr. would walk away from Cuba. This was also a major signal that things were truly changing.

The Gurriel’s were considered the first family of Cuban baseball. If a deal to send players to MLB legally was imminent the big prize would have been the pair of brothers originally from Sancti Spiritus. They were hardly the only prize. And hardly the only players to risk much to get to America and the top baseball league in the world. Back to my previous point of how I’d be lying if I said I was aware either before or immediately after of the future Pros I was seeing that January.

Some estimates peg 300 players having left Cuba between 2015 and 2017. Many of them obviously have become big if not household names. More are still working their way to The Show and others have faded into obscurity. To this day, names pop up in the MLB sphere that I go back and realize I saw that day. Many of these players I remember most vividly through my camera lens.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1686-Edit-1024x683.jpg
Hasuan Viera w Industriales via Phil Selig

Hasuan Viera is a perfect example of a young Cuban ball player that most haven’t heard of. He is currently working his way through the Texas Rangers system. That Ciego de Avila Tigres squad won multiple championships in the mid 2010’s. A number of young transcendent talents powered their run. This despite the defection of a player many or at least the Boston Red Sox considered a generational talent in Rusney Castillo.

Castillo left Cuba in 2013 and signed for big dollars. He would find himself buried in the Minor Leagues though. He may have been the victim of a management change and the lofty expectations of a huge contract. More on what his path might represent in a bit. Had Castillo stayed, the Tigres may have trotted out an Impressive outfield. He would have joined 2020 Super rookie Luis Robert and Right Fielder Jose Adolis Garcia. They were still a mini-dynasty as veteran and recently retired Yoelvis Fiss represented a dynamite outfield alignment with Robert & Garcia.

José Adolis Garcia was named the MVP for the 2016/2017 Season. His 14 home runs and 71 RBI’s along with his .319/.399/.523 batting line were key in Ciego’s run to the league championship. He remains the only Tigre to win the award. Garcia would sign in Japan for a decent pay day while still being able to return to his home in Cuba.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1627-1024x683.jpg
Jose Adolis Garcia w Ciego via Phil Selig

Garcia would split the 2016 season between the Yomiuri Giants minor league & top squads. He put up somewhat underwhelming numbers before deciding to leave Cuba and head for the Major Leagues, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals for $2.5 Million. This is where Garcia’s career starts to resemble Castillo’s in certain ways. He would put up impressive power numbers in the minors. He hit 22 & 32 homeruns in back to back AAA seasons. It appeared that top brass didn’t feel that power would carry over to the majors or enough other batting skills would accompany it.

He would find himself the victim of a 40 man roster crunch and be released before settling with the Texas Rangers organization before the start of the 2020 season. He would make his Major League debut with the Rangers during the Covid stricken season appearing in a total of 6 At Bats but again becoming a victim of a roster crunch and not even having a minor league season to play in.February 2021 the Rangers announced the signing of pitcher Mike Foltynewicz putting their 40 man roster at 41 players, the 41st player being Adolis Garcia. At 28 years of age he is at a career crossroads. A crossroads that other Cubans have found themselves at.

Castillo is in someways a good parallel. His decision to sign with Rakuten is likely easier thanks to the $72.5 million contract he signed with Boston. Of course its not the Major Leagues, but the quality of Nipon Pro Baseball is nothing to take lightly and the contract values are growing. Increasing players are signing multi-million dollar contracts.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_8919-Edit-1024x683.jpg
Leslie Anderson w Camagüey via Phil Selig

Garcia may more closely resemble Leslie Anderson. Anderson is a player who first rose to prominence in the early World Baseball Classics. He signed with Tampa and put up impressive AAA numbers but ultimately couldn’t shake the tag of being a Quadruple A star. Anderson’s journeys would take him to Japan, Mexico and back to Cuba. He repatriated with the Camagüey Toros in 2019. Success is a cruel mistress and often times as baseball fans we grade it even more harshly. A successful career is often defined in terms of Major League contribution or Hall of Fame eligibility. Increasingly success to me in a baseball life is contributing to the game, playing at your highest level and feeding your family.

Garcia has an interesting if not tough decision in front of him, perhaps the toughest part is the timing. Spring Training has already begun in America and Japan. Korea is another top pro league that is becoming a great playground and payday for foreign and Cuban players. Another path, less financially lucrative would be to return to Cuba. Increasing players are taking this path and being able to play in lesser pro leagues concurrently. Being cut from a Major League roster is never desirable but baseball options exist. I’ll be intrigued to follow Adolis Garcia and wish him health, prosperity and baseball success wherever he lands.

Update: Garcia passed waivers and will return to the Rangers organization. He has accepted a non-roster invite to spring Training. He began 2021 with Triple-A Round Rock before getting called up to the Major League Roster. Jose Adolis hit his first career home run on 04/15/2021.

Adolis Garcia with Ciego de Avila of Cuba via Phil Selig

He would split the 2016 season between the Yomiuri Giants minor league & top squads. He put up somewhat underwhelming numbers before deciding to leave Cuba and head for the Major Leagues, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals for $2.5 Million. This is where Garcia’s career starts to resemble Castillo’s in certain ways. He would put up impressive power numbers in the minors. He hit 22 & 32 homeruns in back to back AAA seasons. It appeared that top brass didn’t feel that power would carry over to the majors or enough other batting skills would accompany it.

He would find himself the victim of a 40 man roster crunch and be released before settling with the Texas Rangers organization before the start of the 2020 season. He would make his Major League debut with the Rangers during the Covid stricken season appearing in a total of 6 At Bats but again becoming a victim of a roster crunch and not even having a minor league season to play in.February 2021 the Rangers announced the signing of pitcher Mike Foltynewicz putting their 40 man roster at 41 players, the 41st player being Adolis Garcia. At 28 years of age he is at a career crossroads. A crossroads that other Cubans have found themselves at.

Castillo is in someways a good parallel. His decision to sign with Rakuten is likely easier thanks to the $72.5 million contract he signed with Boston. Of course its not the Major Leagues, but the quality of Nipon Pro Baseball is nothing to take lightly and the contract values are growing. Increasing players are signing multi-million dollar contracts.

Leslie Anderson w Camagüey via Phil Selig

Garcia may more closely resemble Leslie Anderson. Anderson is a player who first rose to prominence in the early World Baseball Classics. He signed with Tampa and put up impressive AAA numbers but ultimately couldn’t shake the tag of being a Quadruple A star. Anderson’s journeys would take him to Japan, Mexico and back to Cuba. He repatriated with the Camagüey Toros in 2019. Success is a cruel mistress and often times as baseball fans we grade it even more harshly. A successful career is often defined in terms of Major League contribution or Hall of Fame eligibility. Increasingly success to me in a baseball life is contributing to the game, playing at your highest level and feeding your family.

Garcia has an interesting if not tough decision in front of him, perhaps the toughest part is the timing. Spring Training has already begun in America and Japan. Korea is another top pro league that is becoming a great playground and payday for foreign and Cuban players. Another path, less financially lucrative would be to return to Cuba. Increasing players are taking this path and being able to play in lesser pro leagues concurrently. Being cut from a Major League roster is never desirable but baseball options exist. I’ll be intrigued to follow Adolis Garcia and wish him health, prosperity and baseball success wherever he lands.

Update: Garcia passed waivers and will return to the Rangers organization. He has accepted a non-roster invite to spring Training. He began 2021 with Triple-A Round Rock before getting called up to the Major League Roster. Jose Adolis hit his first career home run on 04/15/2021.

Phil Selig

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