Getting to know Javier Báez, from his Lamborghini to his incredible farm in Puerto Rico

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lamborghini Urus rests beneath palm trees, beside a flower bed at the Detroit Tigers‘ spring training facility.

The four-door super sport utility vehicle — mostly matte black, with some red accents — has an eight-cylinder twin-turbocharged engine underneath the hood. The back windows are tinted. The black wheels are accentuated by more splashes of red, and in the center, a black and gold Lamborghini logo.

Every car has a story.

“It’s the first expensive car that I’ve bought,” Javier Báez said. “I have a lot of cars, but I don’t have a lot of expensive cars. I mean, they’re not cheap, but they’re not Lambos. The Lambo is my first expensive thing.”

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Báez, who plays baseball in the Motor City, parks his Lambo, a 2022 model, in a self-created, undesignated spot in the parking lot at the Tigers’ complex. The vehicle, which currently retails around $250,000 for the base model, is on display for everyone to see.

“Growing up, he saw a lot of people having nice cars,” said Toronto Blue Jays pitcher José Berríos, Báez’s brother-in-law. “As a young kid, he dreamed of having a nice car. The Lambo is a pretty nice car to have. He has it, and he’s enjoying it.”

It tops out at 189.5 mph, and goes from 0-62 mph in 3.5 seconds.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Báez said. “It’s got a lotta power.”

As Báez enters his second season with the Tigers, the franchise, and its fans, are hoping he, too, will have a lot of power. A bounce-back 2023 campaign, though, will have had its roots in his offseason home, in Puerto Rico.

‘I’ll show you the cameras’

Standing at his locker, Báez pulls out his phone, opens an app and swipes through live surveillance video from his state-of-the-art security system on the island. Every angle of everything he owns is within a touch of his finger.

He starts in the garage.

“It doesn’t look that big, but I can fit 40 cars in there,” he says.

Báez owns more than a half-dozen luxury cars, but none of them compare to his prized Lambo. He also has a Cadillac Escalade, a Polaris Slingshot, a Lexus RX, a Range Rover and two Toyotas, a Supra and a Tundra. Since he loves driving fast and looking stylish, he owns a body shop to repair and paint cars.

His favorite car, aside from his Lamborghini, is the all-black Escalade, which was parked at the body shop. He bought the full-size luxury SUV with part of his signing bonus in 2012 after the Chicago Cubs drafted him No. 9 overall in 2011.

Báez smiles gently and nods proudly.

“It’s my baby,” he says. “It still looks brand-new.”

Next, Báez shows where he spends most of his time in the offseason.

“I don’t leave Puerto Rico,” he says. “This is why.”

He hangs out at his 10-acre mountaintop ranch in Puerto Rico, overlooking a large river and several towns. Being there allows him to relax with family and friends while disconnecting from the outside world. He operates all-terrain vehicles through the mountains and jet skis and boats in the ocean. The farm is where he feels like he can be himself.

And the farm has a weight room. The colors of the equipment — black and red — just so happen to match his Lamborghini.

Now for the best part.

“There’s the cage where I always hit,” he says.

“That’s the view,” he adds.

It’s breathtaking.

The batting cage sits on the edge of the mountain. If there wasn’t netting, held in place by eight poles on each side, his powerful swings would send baseballs disappearing into the clouds, only dropping out of sight as gravity did its inevitable science.

He points out several towns in the distance.

Adjacent to the batting cage, still on the edge of the mountain, is a section of dirt. He used to have turf there but needed to remove it for trucks to come through for construction work. Soon, he will plant a junior-sized infield to take ground balls and stretch.

“I got everything out there at the farm,” he says.

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Báez taps his phone.

“Let me show you my restaurant,” he says.

It’s called Taquiza. The logo is an elephant, and the colors are black and green. The dining area appears to be completely outdoors. A roof covers most of the tables and the bar, where there are TVs to watch sports, while the remaining tables have umbrellas above them. His restaurant provided free meals to families during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.

Wait, what does Taquiza mean?

“It means like a cookout,” Báez says.

So, like a barbecue?

“Exactly,” he says. “It’s Mexican with a Puerto Rican taste. They cook everything.”

In December, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch visited Báez in Puerto Rico to further their relationship ahead of the 2023 season. The two-time All-Star shortstop is coming off arguably the worst season of his career. They talked about on-field topics, like Comerica Park’s new outfield dimensions and the Tigers’ new hitting coaches, as well as some personal subjects.

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They shared a meal at his restaurant.

“I spent some time with Javy over the winter, and I understand him a lot more,” Hinch said. “He and I have become close, and he’s confided in me in a lot of things, like things that he enjoyed last year, things that bothered him, and things that he’s looking forward to being better at.”

Báez, flipping through the surveillance cameras, notices two familiar faces at the restaurant.

“That’s my brother,” he says. “My brother and my manager.”

‘That’s my dream car’

After the 2022 season, Báez dropped off his Lambo in Florida before heading to Puerto Rico. His brother-in-law, who stayed in Florida for the first time in his career, was in charge of keeping watch over the car.

Berríos didn’t drive it.

“That car is too expensive to use it and (mess) it up,” he said. “I left it alone.”

Báez began searching for his new ride after signing a six-year contract with the Tigers in December 2021 for an average annual value of $23.3 million. He surveyed the market and had his eye on a two-door Lamborghini, but keeping his spending in perspective, he landed on the less expensive four-door option.

“I fell in love with it,” Báez said.

“I was trying to get the (two-door) car, but I couldn’t find it,” he continued. “And then when I found it, it was like almost half a million, and I’m not trying to pay that for the time I was going to be using it. I think I made a good choice.”

Last season, the Urus — purchased in April from New York — arrived in the Comerica Park parking lot, right in the heart of the Motor City. At the time, the Tigers were on the road for a three-game series.

When the team plane lands, Báez usually travels directly to his home in the suburbs.

This time, he went to the ballpark to pick up the Lamborghini.

“It was pretty late at night,” Báez said. “I didn’t know anything about the car. I didn’t know how to put it in drive, so I had to look it up on YouTube to learn how to deal with my own car. I just didn’t know.”

The three biggest automobile companies in the United States — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler — have their headquarters in the Detroit area.

“We see a lot of really nice cars,” Báez said.

People living in and around the city have taken notice of his car, too.

They share a similar passion.

“When I’m driving, a lot of people take pictures,” he said.

Báez plans to buy the two-door Lamborghini Aventador at some point in the future. It currently retails around $500,000 for the base model, has a 12-cylinder engine, goes 0-62 mph in 2.8 seconds and maxes out at a whopping 220.5 mph.

“Right now, it’s too expensive,” Báez said. “Money is not a problem, but I don’t want to get robbed.”

He doesn’t want to feel like he’s overpaying.

The Urus runs better than he ever could have imagined, and for now, it looks gorgeous sitting under the palm trees in his personal parking spot at the Tigers’ spring training facility.

One day, a new car could take its place.

“The Aventador,” Báez said. “That’s my dream car.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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