Yasiel Puig, Kevin Durant, Lindsey Vonn: The New Ratings Gods of Sports (Photos)
The Hollywood Reporter's photo portfolio also includes Yankees slugger Robinson Cano and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III; as ratings and the price of rights soar, athletes are TV's new stars.
These stories first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Right fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasiel Puig defines the word "phenom."
The enthusiastic rookie, who defected from Cuba with his mom in 2012 on his second attempt, has helped ignite the team from last place in the National League West to a comfortable first-place lead. Since the 22-year-old -- who signed a rich seven-year, $42 million contract -- was called up June 3 from the minors, the fleet, muscular Puig has come out swinging in baseball and pop culture, earning the league's Player of the Week honors after his first seven days in the big leagues.
The sizzling debut has propelled Dodger baseball into must-see TV again and fueled sellouts at home and on the road. (A recent walk-off victory against the New York Yankees notched KCAL 9's highest local ratings for a regular-season game since 1998.) Puig notes that Dodger Stadium -- and his downtown L.A. apartment -- are his favorite places in the city, where he frequently is spotted in his now-trademark white Rolls-Royce.
"Here, the media gets me in one spot as opposed to when I'm on the road and I'm inundated with cameras," he tells THR via an interpreter -- he's still learning English -- noting that he's now recognized nearly everywhere he goes. (Puig uses his Instagram feed to document his encounters with such athletes and entertainers as LeBron James, Snoop Dogg and Jay Z.)
Puig also is taking care of his enterprising business, signing a sunglasses deal with Italian designer Rudy Project, though he denies reports of a deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation sports management division (he's repped by Jaime Torres). As for going Hollywood, he jokes that he's open to a Puig biopic -- with one stipulation. "If anyone wants to do a movie about my life, give me a call, I'll star in it," the 6-foot-3 star says with a roaring laugh.
-- Lesley Goldberg