Once upon a time, when someone had their first glimpse of Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams in person, it had to have felt a little something like Tuesday night in Detroit.
Though Los Angeles Dodgers' right fielder Yasiel Puig didn't have a hit in his first game against the Detroit Tigers, the way he played the field was a spectacle to be seen. Early on, Puig impressed with his arm, nearly throwing out Torii Hunter at second base with a bullet from the right field corner. It was a tough play for even the best outfielder to make. The near-miss ended up being the turning point in the game, as the inning snowballed and the Dodgers ended up getting buried.
Afterward, Puig's comical fist-in-the air celebration of the would-be putout was funny, but not nearly as good as when he quickly wagged a finger at Hunter as if to intimate he was the boss in right field. Hunter comically accepted that fate.
"I was safe, but he scared me." Hunter said to MLB.com. "I told him I wasn't going to run on him anymore. He wagged the finger and I was like 'I'm not doing that anymore.' He's a good player, man. Strong arm. Loves to throw. You can tell." In some ways, it was a passing of the torch moment, as Hunter has long played the outfield with the same exact approach.
Brad Ausmus agreed. "We know he plays defense with reckless abandon out there and he's got a cannon for an arm, we're well aware of that," he said. "We also as a team try to force them to make plays and he nearly did make the play, but thankfully we have replay this year."
Perhaps the best Puig moment, though, came on a routine throw back into the infield. Instead of casually tossing the ball in and holding a runner who was already at third, Puig whipped it from right field, throwing the ball right to Juan Uribe on a line and nearly air mailing him. It was a display of arm power that was only laughable for most.
People can think and say what they want about Puig the person and personality, but the fact is, he plays baseball like it's supposed to be played. It's tough to encourage young players to use their talents defensively anymore, but anyone looking for a crash course on how to play an entire game with enthusiasm need look no further than Puig.
Sometimes, the impact a baseball player makes is felt beyond the box score. Tuesday, Puig proved exactly why he's one such talent, and someone who's games should not be missed, either in person or on television.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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