PHOENIX -- Yoenis Cespedes was in a great mood Tuesday, and for good reason. He had just come back from Miami, where he had seen his mother for the first time since the Oakland Athletics outfielder defected from Cuba in 2011.
According to Cespedes, his mother, Estela Milanes Salazar, and 11 family members left Cuba more than a year ago and had been trying to get to the United States ever since.
Speaking through his interpreter, Oakland coach Ariel Prieto, Cespedes was vague about the journey, but he said it included stops in the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.
The Turks and Caicos Sun reported last October that the group had been arrested as illegal immigrants and sent to a detention center. Cespedes finally learned they had been released and allowed to travel on to Miami over the weekend.
The outfielder said he flew to Miami to surprise family members, who included aunts, uncles and cousins.
"I opened the door at 6 in the morning, and everyone was sleeping," he said, adding that he started screaming to wake everyone up. "It was an exciting day."
His family's arrival provides a tremendous relief for Cespedes, who spent much of last season concerned for their safety.
"I'll still worry about my family a little bit, but my mind will be completely clear knowing they are here in this country," said Cespedes, who batted .292 with 23 home runs as a rookie last year. "It weighed on my mind a lot last season. Sometimes I went three or four days where I didn't know where they were. They had disappeared."
Milanes Salazar, 44, was a left-handed pitcher on the Cuban Olympic softball team. Cespedes said she could throw an 80 mph fastball and that she once threw him a curveball that hit him in the head.
"After she retired, she threw harder than before," he said.
His mother also evidently knows her hitting.
"She will be my second batting coach," Cespedes said, adding that she saw some of his games on TV last season and gave him tips when they talked via Skype.
Cespedes said he still has a son, Yoenis Jr., in Cuba that he hasn't seen in two years, as well as a younger half brother.
"When he gets big, I will get him here to play with Oakland," Cespedes said of his brother.