Cubs second baseman Javier Baez strips down for ESPN’s “Body Issue,” and showed how he’s not only physically strong, but how adversity in his childhood has made him mentally tougher.
“I’ve learned to be strong. My father and my great-grandmother died within the very same week,” Baez told Marly Rivera for ESPN. “On the next Wednesday, I was mugged. I was 11 years old. I had a gun put next to my chest. I have lived a lot of different situations.”
Baez also attributed his sister, Noely, for making him stronger and said she is his biggest inspiration.
After battling with spina bifida, which made her unable to walk, Noely died in 2015 when she was 21. Baez said he still cries for her and when he goes home to Peurto Rico, he visits her grave.
“I sit there and let it all out. Sometimes I go on my own,” Baez said. “I go there, sit down and talk to her. I laugh out loud remembering everything I have gone through with her. I told her about the World Series.”
But Baez said he likes to keep his emotions on locked down and doesn’t like to show people how he truly feels.
“Because of all the things I’ve gone through, I am not that emotional,” Baez said. “When we won the World Series, my girlfriend said to me, ‘Aren’t you excited?’ I keep my emotions in balance.”
Baez was selected as one of the 23 athletes featured in this year’s “Body Issue” and he posed for one of the covers.
But one aspect that makes Baez’s shoot more unique than others is the way his pictures were taken. Photographer Dylan Coulter used an iPhone 7 Plus to capture Baez’s shots.
Coulter told USA Today that he was originally worried about using a smart phone rather than a high-caliber professional camera like he is accustomed to.
“They mentioned they wanted to shoot in on an iPhone, so I was kind of mildly terrified until I really wrapped my head around it,” Coutler told USA Today. “Because the level and caliber of photography for the Body Issue is so high, the imagery is so strong that I of course wanted to be able to deliver that same caliber of imagery.”
The “Body Issue,” featuring Baez, is scheduled to hit newsstands on July 7.