Indians' visit to Puerto Rico just a piece in bigger picture

Lindor, Perez banding with other PR stars to heal homeland

Alex Hooper
April 16, 2018 - 11:56 am

Photo courtesy USA Today Images

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Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez spent part of their off-season healing their home of Puerto Rico. This week, the pair of Cleveland Indians will return to help ease their homeland’s minds again for two days, this time while on the clock.

Ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September, and not given adequate assistance from the government thereafter, several of the 28 Puerto Rican major leaguers stepped in to give aid to their island. That included Lindor, a Caguas native, and Perez, who hails from Mayagüez.

Indians first base coach, Sandy Alomar Jr., also hails from Salinas, PR.

Lindor, who moved to America at 12 years old, participated in St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s Charity Home Run Derby and Softball game at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium this off-season. The event raised over $200,000 for hurricane relief, and shared the site of Lindor’s first competitive game in his homeland since his teenage days.

“The last time I played in Puerto Rico I was 13 or 14 years old,” Lindor said of playing in front of family, friends, and fellow Puerto Ricans. “I might shed a tear or two -- it's that special to me going back to my homeland and playing in front of the people that can't really travel and they can't see us play out here.”

The shortstop said he expects to allocate 60 tickets to family and friends over the course of the two-game series.

In a similar vein to the Houston Astros excelling following Hurricane Harvey last season, the Puerto Rican national team rallied to reach the final of the 2017 World Baseball Classic before falling to the United States in the championship game.

Baseball has long been in the blood of the islanders’ population, having reached the championship game in 2013 on top of producing four hall of famers in Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Ivan Rodriguez and former Indians/brother of Sandy, Roberto Alomar.

That is something that is meaningful to the likes of Perez and company, especially in a time of struggle. The group has bonded together, and even have their own group text chat to hold their bond strong.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” Perez said. “We want to take the game to Puerto Rico and have the little kids look up to us. We always talk. It’s fun. It’s fun when every Puerto Rican guy, like Lindor or (Houston Astros shortstop Carlos) Correa or (Chicago Cubs second baseman/outfielder) Javier Baez, they have a good game. We kind of talk about it, we send a message to each of us for support. That’s what we need. We’re very close. This year, Maria got us together again. Hopefully all of us have great careers and we keep going. “

The players will be engaged in community activities starting early on Monday, something that Manager Terry Francona expects to be particularly special for the trio of Puerto Ricans.

“I think it’ll be fun,” he said. “Again, you’ve got to remember that they’re not exhibition games, because sometimes you get in that atmosphere, but, I think it’s good for baseball and I think our guys will enjoy it.”