With a game-time temperature of 102 degrees on Sunday night at Boise's Memorial Stadium, Yasiel Balaguert must have felt right at home.
The Cubs prospect slugged a three-run homer and scored twice in the Rookie-level Hawks' 6-5 win over visiting Eugene.
After defecting from Cuba in Mexico during a tournament in 2010, Balaguert signed with the Cubs in December 2011. He posted a .561 OPS between the Rookie-level Arizona League and Class A Midwest League last season but is righting himself this summer in the Northwest League.
"After going through everything, knowing you have to leave your country behind, to be signed, have on this uniform and play in front of a good crowd, it finally feels real," Balaguert told the Idaho Statesman.
The 20-year-old outfielder erased an early 2-0 deficit with a three-run homer in the third inning. He leads the league with four homers and 22 RBIs, seven more than Hillsboro's Zachary Esquerra.
Balaguert isn't the Hawks' only Cuban defector. Making his first start of the season and second as a pro, Carlos Martinez-Pumarin allowed two unearned runs and three hits over three innings to drop his ERA to 0.84.
"It feels like we're living our dream," Balaguert told the newspaper. "It's amazing."
Balaguert has nine extra-base hits, and all but one have come with runners on. His approach with runners on and the bases empty has been starkly different. Through Sunday's game, he has a .483 on-base percentage, eight walks and six strikeouts with the bases clear; with runners on, he has a .263 OBP, two walks and nine strikeouts. Thanks to a .711 slugging percentage, Balaguert had a 1.003 OPS with runners on, nearly 200 points higher than with runners aboard.
Balaguert's also keeping an eye on another white-hot Cuban, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who's hitting .436.
"It's so great to see because he's a friend of ours. We stay in touch," Balaguert said. "Hopefully, we'll get the chance to shine like that and put our names with other great Cuban players."
Jordan Hankins, a 2013 11th-round Draft pick, singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth on his first hit in a Boise uniform. He was 0-for-11 in his first three Northwest League games.
Andrew McKirahan (1-0) earned his first pro win with two scoreless innings. Eugene loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before Matt Iannazzo retired Yair Lopez on a forceout for his first save of the season.
The win completed a three-game sweep of the Emeralds as Boise wrapped up a 5-1 homestand.