For the true baseball fan, Cuba is a mecca. There are no giant video screens with animated hands demanding that you clap. There are no overcaffeinated and
overamplified cheerleaders pressuring you to make some noise.
In Cuba, there is no artificial passion. The excitement comes from within the hearts of the fans, and from the joy of the players.
That is the essence of watching Yasiel Puig, and the Dodgers are more than happy to put up with the occasional culture clash. He plays in a way few others can, celebrates in a way few others do, ignites this city in a way few others have.
America could have enjoyed all this in the All-Star game. America passed, in favor of a guy from the Atlanta Braves.
What America missed could be seen in one play on Monday, in the Dodgers' 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Puig hit a drive deep to right field, so deep he assumed the ball would clear the fence.
Puig flipped his bat, and threw his arms high to celebrate the home run. Alas, the ball hit the wall, and Puig charged around the bases and into third base, with a stand-up triple. He put his hands together in applause even before he hit the base, then thrust his arms skyward after he did.
He ran so fast that Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, sitting in the box adjacent to the home dugout, seriously thought Puig might get an inside-the-park home run — after Puig had stopped to admire the flight of what he thought would be an outside-the-park home run.
Let us not lose sight of the primary point. Puig's triple was his first hit of the NLCS. He had no hits in 10 at-bats in the first two games of the series, both losses. He had two hits in three at-bats on Monday, in the Dodgers' first victory.
His talent is so extraordinary that the Dodgers can marvel at any facet of it on any given night. On this one, the box score showed that Puig and A.J. Ellis each tripled, even though Puig hit the pause button before running.
"He got his triple easy," Ellis said. "I started running when I hit the ball, and I barely made it."
But the play sparked another chapter in the running debate about whether Puig simply plays with flair, or whether his actions disrespect the other team.
Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, an eight-time All-Star, went with the latter take.
"As a player, I think he doesn't know," Beltran said. "I think he still thinks he's playing somewhere else. He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that, a lot of talent.
"I think with time he will learn that sometimes you have to be a little more calm, not only with not showing up the other team, but with the umpires, and the way he plays the game."
Don Mattingly, the Dodgers' manager, sighed at the topic. He said he would have preferred that Puig run out the play, at least until the ball actually clears the fence.
"We've been dealing with this all year," Mattingly said. "He's just emotional."
Ellis said he did not believe Puig was showing up the other team. The kid just does not have an off switch for his energy, he said.
What, we wondered, would constitute showing up the other team? "Barking at people," Ellis said.
"Pimping a home run," he said.
Wait a second. That is what Puig did, except for the detail about the ball not going out.
"He pimped it a little bit," Ellis conceded, "but then he took off and he got a triple. You've got to play with a little bit of individualism, a little bit of flair. It's good for the game. He didn't show up the other team, in my opinion."
Not that the Dodgers are worried about etiquette at the moment. They are 69-35 when Puig starts, 27-38 when he does not.
Their two best hitters, Puig and Hanley Ramirez, play with flair becoming of the co-owner who flashes a championship smile and five rings. Puig is magic, and this is showtime.