Yoan Moncada waltzed into the interview room at JetBlue Park on Friday morning with an air of confidence that further justified the Boston Red Sox’s reported $63 million investment.
Hair gelled, suit cleaned and shirt pressed, Moncada sat down with an ear-to-ear smile, laughing alongside Red Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero, who played a huge role in the Cuban prospect’s signing process, and general manager Ben Cherington.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting back on the field and playing baseball because I’ve gone so long since I’ve actually been able to just to go out and play,” Moncada said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity of just being with this organization and I’m very thankful to everyone with the Red Sox who made that possible.”
Moncada, who signed a minor league contract with Boston on Thursday, came off as honest, direct and eager during Friday’s introductory press conference. He also flashed some personality, particularly while answering questions posed in Spanish, suggesting the Red Sox have added a colorful character.
But it was clear throughout the roughly 30-minute session that Moncada holds two things in very high regard: baseball and family.
“It was a very tough process overall, it being my first time in anything like this,” said Moncada, who defected from Cuba, established residency in Guatemala and emerged as a highly sought after free agent before landing with Boston. “But I was thrilled to be able to join the Red Sox. It’s a good organization with a lot of good players.
“What helped was the support of my family, who was extremely supportive throughout the entire process. Now I’m just looking forward to getting on the field and hopefully one day contributing at the major league level.”
Moncada, who turns 20 in May, handled himself with poise and maturity while fielding questions. He maintained his composure despite the uniqueness of the situation. Yet there was a moment Friday when everything seemed to catch up to Moncada, perhaps offering a glimpse into his personal values.
Asked about his relationship with David Hastings, a public accountant who served as the Cuban infielder’s agent throughout the long, stressful signing process, Moncada became emotional. It presented a moment of reflection for a 19-year-old who hasn’t seen his family in over nine months.
“Ever since I was able to come over here, he’s been tremendous with me,” Moncada said of Hastings. “He’s been sincere and respectful, and he’s really given me the care that a father would, just like my father back in Cuba. I’m just lucky to have found him.”
One week was the longest Moncada went without seeing his Cuban family before the current nine-month hiatus, according to the former Serie Nacional star. He acknowledged Friday it’s been an “incredibly tough” experience, as one would imagine, and he’s hopeful a reunion is in the not-so-distance future.
Baseball continues to offer salvation for the teenager, who’s now in a foreign country with one of baseball’s most historic franchises amid extremely high expectations. And Moncada expressed a desire to “get to work” several times Friday, with “work” seemingly meaning more than just fielding ground balls and taking cuts in the batting cage.
“This is definitely a first for me with this kind of media being present,” Moncada said. “But once I start hanging out with my teammates, I just want to be one of them, for them to see I’m a dedicated teammate, that I’m a good guy and just start fitting in.”
It’s no wonder Moncada, who tackled questions about his family with thoughtfulness, is focused on building camaraderie with his new teammates. Many ballplayers consider their teammates to be like a second family.
It’s also unsurprising, then, that Moncada singled out former Red Sox pitcher and fellow Cuban Luis Tiant, who helped ease his transition into the United States and into his new organization.
“Once I got here I appreciated the attention the Red Sox gave us at the private workout,” Moncada said. “I want to thank Luis directly because he sat down with us and explained to us what playing in Boston was like for a player with a Cuban background. I really appreciate his support with all of this.
“Now it’s just about being with the Red Sox and trying to help this team win a World Series in the future.”
Already talking World Series? The ever-confident Moncada evidently is prepared to stay true to himself as he embarks on a new journey after a long road to the Red Sox filled with twists, turns and uncertainty.
Thumbnail photo via Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press