Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba

Yesterday, June 18th, 2016, Kansas City Royals’ DH Kendrys Morales drove in five runs with four hits and tied a career high with five RBIs and also got his 200th career double. Morales, as many baseball fans know, defected from Cuba in 2004 and just a few days ago he was batting .194 while he should have been batting much higher.

Could the problem have been he wasn’t motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could have been related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea was having personal problems in her life, and he’s wasn’t there in Cuba to help her, and he didn’t discuss it with anyone but rather kept it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans an athlete and lowers his or her self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his or her ability to focus.

If what I’ve written is true, and Morales was experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not have been trying to motivate him (as he stated in an interview) but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. It’s possible Morales began talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might have been, and became less depressed, the result showing up in his performance.

Now there are many who might say that Morales is a professional athlete and those types of problems shouldn’t affect him. But professional athletes are human beings just like the rest of us mortals and they have personal issues away from the field of competition.

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As of today, May 14th, 2016, The Kansas City Royals are struggling, off to a 16-18 start and 6 ½ games behind the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox. And in a USA TODAY interview with Royals’ manager Ned Yost he mentioned factors that affect “how he motivates his team.” But can he really motivate his team? I don’t think so. Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within. And over the years I’ve found the better an athlete feels about himself or herself (and I’m referring to their self-esteem) the greater their motivation. Take the case of Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who defected from Cuba in 2004. Today he’s batting .194 while he should be batting much higher. Could the problem be he’s not motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could be related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea is having personal problems in her life, and he’s not there in Cuba to help her, and he doesn’t discuss it with anyone but rather keeps it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans him and lowers his self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his ability to focus. If what I’ve written is true, and Morales is experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not be trying to motivate him but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. Once Morales begins talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might be, and becomes less depressed, the result will be an immediate increase in his performance on the field.

When Yeonis Cespedes defected from Cuba in 2011, he left behind his two-year old son and the mother of his son. On February 13, 2012, he signed a 4-year $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics, but I predicted at the time that unless Oakland figures out a way to either bring his son and his son’s mother to America, or to assure Cespedes that his son would be safe in Cuba, he wouldn’t perform up to his skill level. Think about it. How hard would it be to hit a 90-mile-an-hour fastball if your mind is somewhere else…such as Cuba? Oakland never brought his son to America, and in 2014 he was traded to Boston and then traded to Detroit. But on July 31, 2015, Cespedes was acquired by the Mets. Today, his six-year old son, Yeonis, Jr., is still in Cuba, and though Cespedes hasn’t seen him in four years, he knows that, because of Obama improving relations with Cuba, that his son is safe. And that has resulted, as of today, in his leading the National League in Runs Batted In (30). Just another example of: What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond. When the time finally comes and his son arrives in America and is reunited with his father, watch for Cespedes’ numbers to climb even higher. In almost every category.

There’s no way to know for sure, but it seems odd to me that someone with Yoenis Cespedes’ talent should perform so poorly in the World Series. He got caught off first base on a double play ball to end Game 4. He batted poorly, and accidentally kicked the ball twice in the outfield. Not to mention hitting himself in his kneecap with his final at bat. One has to wonder if he is having problems with his girlfriend (who is also the mother of his young son) both of whom, as far as I know, still live in Cuba. But if my Psycho Self-Imagery theory is correct, that we create what happens to us, both good and bad, based on our own feelings of self-worth, then perhaps what happened to Cespedes was no accident. But I guess we’ll never know.

When Yeonis Cespedes fled Castro’s Cuba for an opportunity to play MLB is America, he was fortunate to have signed a four-year, $36 million contract as a free agent with the Oakland Athletics. When he left, Cespedes was able to bring with him his mother, aunt and three cousins. However, his 2-year-old son, Yeonis Jr. stayed behind with his mother, who is not married to Cespedes. And according to an article in USA Today, since arriving in America, “Cespedes is batting .212 with three homers and seven RBI. He has reached base safely in nine of 10 games but also has struck out in all but one game, for an alarming 15 times in 33 at-bats.” In my opinion, this is another example of how off-field issues affect on-field performance. If I were advising the Oakland front office, I would recommend they do everything in their power to bring Cespedes’ son and the mother of his child to America ASAP.

Yoenis Cespedes is a 6-foot, 215 pound baseball star who led Cuba’s domestic league last season with 33 homers and 99 RBI in 354 at-bats and hit .333. He defected over the summer and is in the process of establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. Cespedes is expected to do well in America but there is one major consideration.

By way of background, a story in USA Today once pointed out that when Cuban baseball players defect from their homeland and come to America, their performance levels drop. One of the reasons (in fact, it could be THE reason) is that many of them leave their families behind and are constantly concerned about their safety.

A good example was Amaury Marti, who was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and played for one of their farm clubs, The Springfield (Missouri) Cardinals. According to the Springfield News-Leader, Marti “refused to talk about his defection from Cuba where he left his parents, brother and a son behind. The former member of the Cuban National team said he left for the chance to play baseball in the United States and, hopefully, in the majors.” Unless he has received counseling regarding his situation, and didn’t  just keep the issue bottled-up inside himself, it’s doubtful that he is performing in America at the same level he did while on the Cuban National team.

Which brings me to the situation involving Yoenis Cespedes. It’s unknown if he was able to bring his family with him, and if not (unless the Cuban government has softened its policy regarding the treatment of families of athletes who defect) then it’s quite possible that Cespedes will not perform anywhere near the level he did in Cuba. What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond.

Note: Since writing this entry, I found out that Yoenis Cespedes did, in fact, leave some of his family behind:  His two-year old son and his girlfriend, who is the mother of his son.  Whether or not he has been successful in getting them out of Cuba and joining him in Oakland is unknown, but his batting average has jumped considerably in the last month so it’s possible they are now residing in the U.S.


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