Yuniesky Gurriel has lived in the shadow of his family for far too long. Today, the eldest of the Gurriel brothers takes centerstage.
HIALEAH, FL – In Cuba Yuniesky Gurriel was always an underappreciated player, he was always overshadowed by his father Lourdes who is a baseball legend, his younger brother Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros, and his youngest brother who is aptly named after his father and is a top prospect.
But if we were to just base everything on his numbers in the Serie Nacional, the native of Sancti Spiritus had a very solid career. In his 16 seasons in Cuba, he hit .274, had over a thousand hits, and an OBP of .339. He also hit .300 five times.
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In the outfield he was a slick fielder and had a fielding percentage .973, he also managed to win a gold glove during his time in the Cuban League.
Gurriel also has the distinction of being the first Cuban signed by the Can-Am league when he signed with the Quebec Capitales in 2014.
In his Yuniesky Gurriel’s years in Canada, he hit a combined .362 and won a batting title in 2015 when lead the circuit with a .374 average.
You had a solid career in the Serie Nacional, what was your fondest memory of playing in Cuba?
My fondest memory was when I have an awesome playoff series that we won in 2002 against Pinar del Río when I played for Sancti Spiritus, a team that my father managed. We were the runners up that year in Cuba. There were a lot of great players on that team including my brother (Yuli) and Frederich Cepeda.
Tell me what you felt in reached a thousand hits in Cuba?
I felt very well that day, it was actually an exhilarating feeling. It was another milestone for myself and my family. I accomplished everything I wanted in Cuba except for winning a title.
Being your father and brother (Yuli) were legends in Cuba, do you think that the bar was set a little too high and you were undervalued as a player?
This is something I have wrestled with my whole career. I have grown to accept that I will always be overlooked because of the careers that my father and brother had in Cuba.
I’m proud of my brother and father but I also had a good career. I did have a thousand hits, make an all-star game and won a gold glove. I also made the Cuban National Team, these are things that many players would have wanted to accomplish in their careers. Yet no one talks about these things when they mention my name.
In Cuba, people wanted to compare me to my brother Yuli, but we are two different types of players. But that’s all in the past I’m retired now and am enjoying watching my brothers play in the Majors.
Was being able to play outside of Cuba make you a better player?
It helped me plenty being able to see different types of pitching and pitchers helped evolve as a player. Also seeing pitchers with greater velocity than the ones in Cuba definitely helped me plenty.
The level of pitching in Canada is superior to Cuba, which is a bit contradictory because I did way better in my two seasons in the Can-Am League than I did in any season in Serie Nacional.
In 2015 you played with your brother in the Premier 12, how did that make you feel?
It was like something out of a dream, being able to share the field with my brothers was the icing on the cake to my career. That was the last goal I wanted to reach.