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Giving Yasiel Puig guidance was teacher's extra-credit assignment

August 06, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Tim Bravo, not pictured, who accompanied Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig each day and served as his English teacher for several months, said everywhere the pair went was "Puigmania."
Tim Bravo, not pictured, who accompanied Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

After spending a couple of months as Yasiel Puig’s around-the-clock companion, Tim Bravo returned to work Tuesday as a special education teacher in New Mexico.

Tuesday was the first day of the new school year for the faculty at Las Cruces High.

Bravo was enlisted by the Dodgers to be Puig’s English teacher, but became someone far more important, living with the 22-year-old Cuban refugee and helping him become accustomed to life in the United States. A former college teammate of scouting director Logan White, Bravo had previously worked as the Dodgers’ part-time director of cultural assimilation.

Bravo returned to New Mexico at the All-Star break to accompany his son on a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World.

“Dad had his Make-A-Wish too, with the Dodgers,” Bravo said by phone from his classroom.

When Puig was at double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) earlier this season, his behavior raised concerns. His first assigned caretaker, former major league pitcher Eddie Orospesa, butted heads with him and lasted only a month. Puig’s demeanor was said to improve after Bravo joined him at the end of last school year.

Bravo thinks Puig will be fine without him. The task of watching over Puig has now fallen to Roman Barinas, the Dodgers’ manager of international scouting.

“He needs guidance, but he’s a smart kid,” Bravo said of Puig. “He’s going to learn. He’s going to be OK.”

Bravo laughed as he recalled what it was like to be an up-close witness to Puig’s rise to stardom.

“It was crazy,” Bravo said. “It was something that was thrown upon you that you would never expect. People were following us all the time, asking for his autograph. Everywhere we went, it was Puigmania.

“He’s a great kid. He has a great heart. He’s in the process of figuring out how it goes.”

The work was never-ending, but afforded Bravo the opportunity to spend six weeks in a major league clubhouse.

“It was fantastic,” Bravo said. “Don Mattingly and his staff, they were wonderful. They made me feel welcome. So did the players and the clubhouse manager, Mitch Poole.”

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