What a ride! Mets star Cespedes puts on car show at camp
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Yoenis Cespedes had two primary options for transportation when he lived in Cuba – ride his bicycle or walk.
He has a few more choices now.
The flashy New York Mets outfielder put on a personal, custom vehicle show in the players' parking lot this week that quickly became the big talk in camp, and throughout the baseball world.
Cespedes drove six different vehicles in six days from his home in Vero Beach to the spring training complex. The parade included a black-and-blue Avorza Polaris Slingshot three-wheel motorcycle on Saturday.
It was the second Slingshot that Cespedes rolled into camp, and featured a large blue shamrock with the words ''Live Lucky'' underneath.
Cespedes' fleet of vehicles made for an impressive lineup: a Ford F-250, Polaris Slingshot, Lamborghini Aventador, Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and Jeep Wrangler, all customized by Alex Vega, owner of The Auto Firm in Doral, Florida.
''Being in Cuba, I never thought I was going to be here in the United States,'' Cespedes said with Vega translating. ''After I got here, I saw the possibilities I could have whatever I want so I worked hard for it.''
And paid for it, too. The Lamborghini goes for over $300,000, and the customizations were estimated in the $80,000 range.
Cespedes, who defected from Cuba in 2011 and made his major league debut with the Oakland A's the following year, was traded from Detroit to the Mets last July. He helped lead them to the World Series, became a free agent and then signed a $75 million, three-year deal with an opt-out clause after one season.
Vega is well known in the custom car scene. His client list has more than 380 professional athletes, including Michael Jordan and Floyd Mayweather Jr., as well as celebrities such as Lil Wayne and The Rock.
Cespedes was introduced to Vega by a financial adviser in 2012 and got custom rims on his Mercedes GL, which Vega referred to as a ''soccer mom car.'' Vega makes his own rims and other parts, keeping down some costs.
Since then, Vega has tricked out eight vehicles for Cespedes, including the Chevrolet Silverado he received for winning the 2013 Home Run Derby.
Vega said fellow baseball players Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval also drive several custom cars, but Cespedes is the one drawing the attention.
When Cespedes pulled up in a Polaris Slingshot on Tuesday morning – the vehicle Cespedes says is his favorite – pictures and video quickly went viral and Vega's name and brand were along for the ride.
''I don't use Twitter a lot, but my publicist said I need to get on it and see all the retweets,'' Vega said. ''It's crazy.''
''I work with a lot of athletes, so whenever something like this happens, we get a lot of attention. Mayweather had a Jeep we worked on, there was a lot. But this blew it out of the water. This is insane.''
Mets players also were drawn to Cespedes' daily show, snapping pictures of his rides.
That's what happened when he pulled up in a three-wheel motorcycle with a hydraulic system that can raise it six inches off the ground or lower it to a quarter-inch. Cespedes then lent out his fire-breathing Lamborghini to a Mets chef so she could pick up a round waffle maker from Target the next.
The anticipation of what Cespedes would drive next prompted Vega to work through the night Thursday to finish his latest creation. Vega accompanied Cespedes for the drive to the complex in this quiet town on Florida's east coast in a white Jeep Wrangler with hand-stitched seats made to look like baseball gloves.
Once Vega posted pictures of Cespedes' seats online, he said six other baseball players asked him to do the same thing in their cars.
''This has been fun,'' Vega said. ''When I did Jordan, it was big for me. That got my name out there. Then I did a car for The Rock and that was big for me, too.''
''With those guys I had exposure, but nothing like this. It became fun. That's why I made the trip. I have to take advantage, right?''