Yasmani Grandal is used to change.
After spending the first 10 years of his life in Cuba, Grandal's family won a national lottery that allowed them to immigrate to the United States. Despite coming over with little knowledge of his new home, Grandal eventually learned the country's language and history.
Grandal already knew of the national pastime, as he enjoyed success in the game in Cuba. He made a junior national team as a shortstop and third baseman, but he grew into one of baseball's top prospects at Miami Springs High School. He continued his growth at the University of Miami, playing internationally for Team USA in 2009 and finishing second in the voting for the Golden Spikes Award in '10. Later that year, he was selected 12th overall by the Reds in the Draft.
Grandal posted a .901 OPS in his first full professional season, solidifying his status as one of best young catchers in the game, but change again came for him during the offseason. Grandal was sent to the Padres along with three other players in exchange for right-hander Mat Latos -- a trade that he, like many, didn't see coming.
Though pitchers and catchers only reported last week, Grandal has already been with the Padres for nearly a month getting ready for the season. MiLB.com recently caught up with the young backstop to talk about what it was like coming over from Cuba, his experience at the University of Miami and what he thinks about his new organization.
MiLB.com: It's your first Spring Training with the Padres. What have you done so far in camp?
Yasmani Grandal: Just doing some catching, a little bit of hitting, learning the pitchers. There's a bunch of guys here I've never caught before, which is one of the reasons I got here a couple weeks early. So far, so good. There are a lot of young guys, a lot of good guys, so I'm excited.
MiLB.com: You're with the Padres now after coming over in the Mat Latos trade in December. What was your reaction to that deal?
Grandal: I was in shock. I really didn't know what to say. I thought it was a practical joke by one of my friends, but then I knew it wasn't my friend talking on the phone. I was just in shock. [The Reds] explained to me why they had to do it, and I was fine with it. As long as I'm playing ball anywhere else, it doesn't matter.
MiLB.com: With the Reds, you were behind another young catcher, Devin Mesoraco. Was it a relief to go to a team without another prospect looming right above you?
Grandal: Not really. I like the competition. I set goals. I don't mind having somebody on top of me. My ultimate goal is to beat him out and get that job. Whether it's in Cincinnati or any other organization, I want to do the same thing.
MiLB.com: The Padres play at Petco, a notorious pitchers' park. As a catcher, that must excite you, but as a hitter, maybe not. Are you more excited or anxious about the prospect of playing there?
Grandal: I don't really consider myself as a power hitter, so it's a perfect ballpark for me. It's a pitchers' ballpark, so I'm really excited about that, especially catching all these guys that have a lot of potential. Hopefully in the future, if I ever get to play there, we'll throw a couple no-hitters. I'm definitely excited. It's not like Cincinnati, where you hit the ball in the air and it's a home run.
MiLB.com: When you were 10 years old, you and your family emigrated from Cuba to America after winning a national lottery (which has since been discontinued). What do you remember about that experience?
Grandal: It was great. You always hear these stories about coming here, and that's one thing you want to do. There's opportunity here, all these other things, but being a kid, it wasn't really a big change for me. I think it was a big change for my parents, because they'd already lived [in Cuba for so long]. I think I adjusted really well. It was a good opportunity and my mom took it. Lucky for us, we were able to bring the whole family over here, and we're a big family. We stayed together.
MiLB.com: Obviously, you were young, but what was the biggest change that came with that move?
Grandal: Just the language barrier. Getting to a new country, not knowing the language. Lucky for me, I got to Miami where 75 percent of people speak Spanish, so it wasn't a big difference.
MiLB.com: You got your U.S. citizenship when you were a senior in high school. If you didn't, you likely would have been able to sign a professional contract without being drafted. Did that cross your mind?
Grandal: One thing I wouldn't have been able to do is play for Team USA, and that was one of my goals. That was one of the main reasons why I had to do it -- I wanted to play for the USA. Luckily, I was able to do it my sophomore year at Miami.
MiLB.com: As it played out, you were drafted by the Red Sox in the 27th round out of high school. What made you choose college over the pros?
Grandal: I was really clear with the Red Sox about what I wanted. I told them if they didn't meet what I wanted, then I was going to go to the University of Miami. Same thing I told to [Miami] coach [Jim] Morris -- If they don't give me the money I want, I'm coming [to Miami]. Once the Sox called me, I said 'Don't waste a pick on me.' They said, 'No, we'll work something out.' They offered me I think half of what I wanted, so it was an easy choice.
MiLB.com: Miami has a great baseball program but still might be known to some as more of a football school. What made you decide to go there?
Grandal: Nationwide, I think it's a little bit about both. I think both programs have had success, and they're known around the country. When I got to Miami, I always heard about the University of Miami and the Hurricanes. I always wanted to play there. I had other schools I could've gone to, but my first choice was always Miami.
MiLB.com: You were taken 12th overall by the Reds in 2010. I imagine that was an emotional moment for you and your family.
Grandal: Oh, it was -- it definitely was. One thing I remember is being out on the field, about to start warming up and a little kid told me I had been drafted by the Reds. I have a couple pictures of my parents once they heard the news. Everybody was happy and crying. I had to stay focused. I really didn't think about it until the end of the game -- it was the last game of Regionals and we had to move on.
MiLB.com: You were college teammates with Yonder Alonso, another player in the Reds organization who came to the Padres in the Latos deal. What kind of relationship do you two have?
Grandal: Once you play for the University of Miami, every guy that plays there is like family. No matter whether you play with them or not, you're always Hurricanes. We have a good relationship, but I still have [Padres teammates and Miami alums] Blake [Tekotte] and [Jason] Hagerty and Eddie Rodriguez. I'm looking forward to getting Spring Training rolling around and having a good time with them and all the guys here.
MiLB.com: You're a switch-hitting catcher, which is a pretty rare commodity. How long have you been catching, and when did you start switch-hitting?
Grandal: I started switch-hitting full-time when I was about 15. Around the same time, I started catching. I was always a third baseman and one day my stepdad ... he made me a catcher. I had to do the job, started liking it and I just stayed there. Right then, I figured I didn't like hitting against lefties, I started hitting righty and it stuck.
MiLB.com: I know it's early on in spring, but have you had time to think about goals for the season?
Grandal: I always have my goals set. My goal is still the same. My main goal is not only to make it to the Major Leagues but to have a career in the Major Leagues. I don't really think about stats. I think if I do my job in the Minor Leagues, hopefully I'll have a shot at the Major Leagues.