“English Translation: magician, person who is particularly skillful at something, magus, wizard.”
CHICAGO — After Javier Baez made another one of his spectacular “snap tags” in Sundays 13 inning win over the San Francisco Giants, I told him “Javi you’ve got a wicked glove fam! I’m sure people think you’re showboating but me being a former ball player I know that is all natural.” He laughed and said “yeah I know but that’s how I play…that’s how I’ve always played.
“El Mago” has been an invaluable piece to this Cubs puzzle. The Bayamon, Puerto Rico native was selected ninth overall in the 2011 draft and made his MLB debut in August of 2014. He’s played every infield position and left field….the first player since Mark DeRosa in 2008 to do that in a season. This season he’s batting .271 with 13 HR and 49 RBI with a couple of game winners (May 8th vs Nationals, July 28th vs White Sox)
We talked about the art of his snap tag and where it originated. “El Mago” said he learned it about 10-11 years ago back in Puerto Rico from one of his coaches, so imagine how much it has improved over time. As far as his glove is concerned, it’s crazy how easy he makes the tough play look and also how he adds a little flavor to a routine play. His style and grace along with the strength of his throws from any spot in the infield make the plays look effortless at times.
He also let me in on a secret. “I eat, write and basically do everything left-handed except bat and throw so it’s like nothing to me.”
Charles Shipp, a close friend of The BIGS and a 42nd round draft pick by the New York Yankees in the 1995 draft who was one the the rawest baseball players I’ve ever seen had this to say about ‘” El Mago” after one of those snap tags….”Ah Man #JavierBaez Might Be Thee SMOOTHEST DEFENSIVE Player I’ve Ever Seen!!!! So Much Fuckin Swag Man! Did You See That Tag Last Night G??? Then The Tag Just Now!”
I asked Javi about him learning on the go and if he knows any other speed than 100. “I talk to Joe all the time about learning on the go. He wants me to think a little more out there. Eventually the older I get the more I will learn and I will be smarter,” he said. He makes the head first slide look fun/easy but that’s an art of it’s own. One false move= season over. Javi is well aware…
A good team needs that player that sets the tone with hustle and effort. Baez’s light switch is always on and his heart and effort have led to some huge wins this season but sometimes, like most young and aggressive players, he can get a little overzealous.
“It’s like no-no-no Javi when he goes then it’s yes-yes-yes when he’s safe. I want him to slow down but I never want to coach the hustle and effort out of him. He’s young. He’ll learn,” says leaders of the clubhouse Joe Maddon.