PHOENIX The highest-paid player on the A's is the same player the manager and coaches know least about.
He is a man without a country who fled communism and the indentured servitude of the Cuban national baseball team.
Yoenis Cespedes didn't defect from Cuba last summer out of any great love for America or hatred for Marxism.
"It never occurred to me that I would abandon my country," the outfielder said quietly to me in Spanish during his first at-length interview in the English press and without an interpreter.
Cespedes fled last summer and eventually signed with A's for $36 million over four years for a very simple reason.
He was angry not on a political level but on a baseball level.
He once thought of quitting baseball when he was left off Cuba's World Baseball Classic team of 2006.
"If they didn't pick me for the team in 2009, I was going to quit," he said.
Cespedes wore Cuba's colors in 2009, but the honor was fleeting.
He said he grew tired of being one of the best players in Cuba, if not the best yet always getting jerked around by the politics of the national team.
"I was leading the league in home runs," he said. In fact, Cespedes' mark of 33 homers in one season still stands as the season record in Cuba.
At the World Baseball Classic in 2009, Cespedes' raw power opened eyes and dropped jaws in baseball's top international showcase.
He hit .458 in the tournament with two home runs and five RBIs in six games. Even then, the allure of America didn't move him. Cuba played its last two games in San Diego at Petco Park, beating Mexico and then being eliminated by Japan.
Cespedes went back to Cuba and would have stayed, but life became unbearable for him.
"The athletes don't get the treatment they deserve. What they earn, they don't receive. That's what motivates Cuban players to leave," he said.
At 26 and a sculpted 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Cespedes might have been a halfback had he been raised a hundred miles north in Florida instead of the isolated province of Granma in Cuba.
He evokes a young Sammy Sosa or Raul Mondesi.
And yet: "On the national team, they have an A team, a B team and a C team. I was leading the league in home runs, and they put me on the C team. The worst team," Cespedes said last week.
"That's when I decided to leave. It took me 15 days to make up my mind."
He arrived in the Dominican Republic with his mother, two aunts and four cousins.
Ask him how, and he says: "I really don't think I should talk about that now."
Like other Cuban defectors before him, Cespedes hooked up with an American agent. Adam Katz, who also represented Sosa, lured several teams to bid on Cespedes. The Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and A's were the main suitors, Cespedes said.
"I told my agent I only wanted to sign for four years, and the A's were the only team to offer four. The others offered six," Cespedes said.
The man from the communist country had become a capitalist quickly. In four years, he'll be 30 and presumably can make more money than if he had signed a longer initial contract.
In the end, the team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball emerged as the shocking winner of the Cespedes sweepstakes. At $6.5 million this season, Cespedes easily will be the A's highest-paid player.
"To find a potentially center-of-the-diamond player in the prime of his career, those players usually aren't available to us," A's general manager Billy Beane said when Cespedes was signed.
Here, Cespedes has looked powerful and menacing in batting practice and more than a little lost off of the field.
He rarely makes a move without Manny Ramirez, the busted cheat attempting a comeback with the A's.
"If I was dropped into a country where I didn't know the language and where there were high expectations? That's a lot of pressure," said A's manager Bob Melvin.
Though so serious he has to be reminded to smile, Cespedes has brought smiles to others.
On Saturday, in his first big-league game, Cespedes went 2 for 2 with a walk, two RBIs and a powerful home run to left field off Cincinnati Reds left-hander Jeff Francis.
It was an impressive at-bat as Cespedes showed patience and an ability to adjust pitch-by-pitch as he fouled off three consecutive curveballs, hitting each one harder than the one before. When Francis switched up and came with a high fastball, Ka-BOOM!
"I was nervous before the first at-bat," he said. "But then I let it go. As I was running the bases, I was so happy and relieved."
The A's could end up being overjoyed. With Cespedes, the A's might have what every team craves a big outfielder with speed and power.
They also have a guy who says he doesn't party and prefers quiet nights at home watching TV. He is a budding star who can't yet communicate with his teammates.
"I like them," he said of the A's. "I just don't understand them."
That's fine for now. His bat is speaking loud and clear.