NEW YORK -- It has been approximately two years since Yoenis Cespedes first picked up a golf club, originally trying out the game when he received a free round as part of a charitable donation. Plenty of additional outings followed from there, interspersed with YouTube videos teaching him how to swing a club.
How far away those days seemed last week at Corona's Park of the Americas, where Cespedes shuffled his feet together, bent his knees, and demonstrated proper chipping form for a group of approximately two dozen schoolchildren. Cespedes, the expert -- imagine that. The implications are not lost on the completely self-taught golfer.
"I do think it's a little bit surprising," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "I have gotten the opportunity to play with people who play golf professionally, and they have told me that for the short amount of time that I've played, I do play very well."
For Cespedes, golf has become more than just a hobby. It is a way for him to relax, hitting the links two to three times per week during the season. It is a barometer for his baseball swing -- he swears the motion, which can throw some ballplayers into a funk, actually helps his muscle memory in the batter's box. And it is a long-term pursuit; when he is done playing baseball, Cespedes plans to make a run at the PGA Tour.
"I think it's just that draw of, I can go out today, I can hit a lot, I can have a great game, and tomorrow I may not be able to play better than that," Cespedes said. "So that kind of motivates me to keep coming back and wanting to do better. It can be a little bit frustrating, and it's a sport where you really have to have determination and patience to continue to improve."
To know Cespedes is to watch his tape-measure home runs, including one last week that was the first-ever blast to Citi Field's third deck. Recently named to his second career All-Star team, Cespedes has developed at age 30 into one of the game's premier sluggers.
But to know Cespedes is also to know his hobbies. One of them made headlines this spring, when Cespedes turned his car collection -- he owns a Lamborghini, an Alfa Romeo and a Polaris three-wheeled motorcycle, among several other tricked-out vehicles -- into a daily show-and-tell session at Mets camp in Florida. Cars, Cespedes says, are a luxury he could not afford growing up in Cuba, so he relishes his ability to buy them now.
Golf offers the same sort of vindication. Growing up hours from the nearest course in Cuba, Cespedes was never exposed to the game until he arrived in the United States in 2012. Two years later, Cespedes picked up a club for the first time, rapidly improving thanks to his natural athleticism. He now boasts that he is one of the best players on the Mets, a claim that no one within the clubhouse disputes. On a good day, Cespedes says, his scores can dip into the mid-70s.
Even at his charity event in Corona, where organizers set up makeshift drill stations in a one-square-block city park, Cespedes managed to nudge a half-dozen balls all within one foot of each other.
"I'm not even sure Rory McIlroy could do that," said Mike Silverman, the City Parks Foundation's director of sports, who ran the clinic for a group of area schoolchildren. "He's a pretty modest guy, but he certainly can play the game."
Given that sort of skill set, Cespedes' PGA Tour aspirations are no joke, even if he's nowhere close to being done with baseball. That's fine for the Mets slugger, who is happy for now to use golf as a way to decompress, regardless of whether it eventually becomes a bigger part of his life.
"It's just a matter of setting those goals and staying motivated," Cespedes said, "and you can do whatever you want to do."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.