Yoan Moncada: The Knights sweet-toothed Cuban phenom

Knights sweet-toothed Cuban phenom

CHARLOTTE -- At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Charlotte Knights second baseman Yoan Moncada looks like he should be playing football at Bank of America Stadium, rather than baseball at BB&T Ballpark.

"He has everything that you need," said Charlotte Knights manager Mark Grudzielanek, "that you want in a Major Leaguer."

Including an appetite for a cakey, sweet, nostalgic American snack -- Twinkies.

"Looking like that, if Twinkies are the thing, maybe I need to start eating some Twinkies," said Grudzielanek. "He's in great shape."

Moncada discovered them during his first pro season in the United States.

“I really liked it so I happened to eat a lot then and so it became a thing," said Moncada through a translator. "It kind of got away from me a little bit."

The 21-year-old is ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball. But before Charlotte he grew up learning the game from his parents in Cuba.

"I started playing when I was 10 years old in Cuba," he said. "It was a game my parents showed me. They taught me a lot. My family taught me a lot of the game. I fell in love with it then."

Unlike other Cuban stars, Moncada didn’t have much issue leaving the country,  as the government gave him permission.

"I'm glad I was able to come out the way I did and to be able to come here and do what I love to do which is play baseball," Moncada said, "and hopefully play in the big leagues real soon.”

And real soon is a possibility. The Knights parent club, the Chicago White Sox, pulled off a big trade with Boston for  Moncada, and he’s hitting a blistering .330, with 5 homers at Triple-A Charlotte, the closest you can get to the bigs.

“I feel good," he said. "I feel good with my teammates, with my new coaches and I've been working hard every day.”

Meanwhile, White Sox fans are chomping at the bit to see Moncada, who originally signed for a $31.5 million bonus with Boston -- a record for an international prospect.

"I think he's as close to a sure thing as I've ever seen," said producer Ryan McGuffey from Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, one of the many Windy City media outlets that have flocked to Charlotte this year to get a glimpse of Moncada, and report back to White Sox fans.

"People are definitely chomping at the bit," McGuffey said. "Any tweet, any picture, any swing of his, people are looking for it.”

Kind of like how Yoan is always looking for his next Twinkie.

He says he's cut back but...

"Now," he says with a smile, "I could probably put down a box a day, maybe two."

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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