In the month since the devastating Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, recovery has been slow — the vast majority of residents are still immersed in one of the largest blackouts in U.S. history, much of the island’s infrastructure is destroyed, and full restoration of power remains many months away. But even amid the devastation, it’s not hard to demonstrate the island’s devotion to its favorite sport — one which features many of its own. To watch his son in this year’s Fall Classic, Astros backup catcher Juan Centeno‘s father hooked a television up to a car battery.
In all, seven coaches and players in this year’s World Series are Puerto Rican: Dodgers super utility Enrique Hernández, Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder George Springer, veteran slugger Carlos Beltrán, backup catcher Juan Centeno, coach Alex Cintrón and bench coach (and newly appointed Red Sox manager) Alex Cora.
To a man, they say they hope the World Series can bring a glimmer of joy to the islands’ residents. In the middle of their hunt for a championship, they talked to ESPN about Maria’s impact, and how the joy of bringing a World Series ring to Puerto Rico has become a true source of inspiration.
CARLOS CORREA, ASTROS SHORTSTOP: The first thing I would do (with a World Series ring) is go home, hug my family and then do anything I can to help the people in my country. A World Series win would really mean a lot — not everything, but a lot. Obviously a lot of stuff is going on over there, but we’re able to bring a little bit of joy and happiness through baseball to the fans in Puerto Rico and that really means a lot to us.
It makes me really happy (that both teams have Puerto Rican players) but we got five Puerto Ricans in this side. So hopefully we’re gonna impact a lot more people in Puerto Rico than just one guy. So hopefully we can come up with the win.
CARLOS BELTRAN, ASTROS DH: The support I have received from the people of Puerto Rico and my fans around the world has been great. I have a lot of messages from friends wishing me well, hoping for me to win the World Series. At the end of the day, you know what, I am excited to be in this position. I am happy to be around at this point in my career and I am looking forward to just go out there and try to do the best I can.
I come from a humble family back home in Puerto Rico and I worked extremely hard to become a professional ball player and to get to the big leagues and to stay in the big leagues for 20 years you have to work hard. I am a proven example that if you take care of yourself and you’re disciplined and you do things, God will find a way to bless you. I am very thankful to have my mom and dad in my life, to have them around me and to be able to share with them a lot of success, but also at the same time you go through stretches where things are down, the support of your family is huge.
KIKE HERNÁNDEZ, DODGERS UTILITY MAN: I’ve already pictured a return to Puerto Rico with a World Series ring many times. The first thing I’d do is probably just going to go my parents or my grandparents’ house. I left when I was a young cub, when I was 17, and I came to the States to play baseball and I spent most of the year in the United States away from my family. I miss a lot of big moments. Puerto Ricans are big family guys and we like to keep family members close and I like to let them know, yeah I am away for a long time but I am still the same kid that grew up in this house. For me, family is the most important thing.
As a kid when you dream of being a big leaguer, you always picture yourself in the World Series and here we are in the World Series. You may think it doesn’t get any bigger than this, that there are no games bigger than this, that this is it. But for me and I am sure for Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran and Juan Centeno, on the other team, this is more than a World Series game. This is more than any other game. You know that with a simple swing of the bat or a good catch, you can put a lot of smiles in the faces of a lot of people that are going through the hardest of times right now. So for us to carry that weight in our backs also elevates our game a little bit more because we’re playing with pride. We’re not only trying to bring this city a trophy and get yourself a ring but you’re also trying to make your people happy because they haven’t had a lot of reasons to smile lately and that’s what you want to do.
GEORGE SPRINGER, ASTROS OUTFIELDER: I am extremely proud to be Puerto Rican. My family goes back to a long time from there. I might not be born there, but my mom was and I still go back. It’s been hard (after the Hurricane) to not be in contact with any of her family members, but the last few days have been better. She’s actually been able to get a hold of a couple of people, like her cousins and all that stuff. It’s sad to see my mother struggling because our family, she doesn’t have any updates. That island is going through a terrible tragedy with no power, there isn’t a lot of water for people, and I feel for that place.
To get a ring for Puerto Rico (would) be special for all the guys that are from the island. I am not from there, but I (can) relate to it and to get some people just a momentary lapse from what is happening will be huge. Whoever wins (Dodgers or Astros), there’s a ring that’s going to go back to that island. I am happy to be a part of it.
ALEX CINTRÓN, ASTROS COACH: (After the hurricane,) we’re talking about it and we all support each other, to maintain calm, and just wait. You can’t do anything else. You got your support; Alex (Cora) behind you going through the same thing. You know Beltran, Centeno, Correa were going through the same stuff.
A lot of people in a lot of states were in the same boat, you got to wait to see when they’re going to have a reception to call you. It happened like in 10 days. So it was crazy, but at the end they were alive. They’re suffering right now but they’re alive and that’s all we can hope for.
Puerto Rico is going through these difficult times, and us having the opportunity to bring joy and happiness to the island would be great. I think hopefully Jim Crane, who has been such a great person with us and such a great help for us in Puerto Rico, give us the opportunity to bring the trophy back to Puerto Rico and show to the island that it’s for them. I think Beltran would take care of that really well. I think he already talked about it and hopefully we can do it and show Puerto Rico that we love them. Hopefully we’re going to do this, we’re going to win the World Series, and we’re going to bring the trophy to Puerto Rico.
JUAN CENTENO, ASTROS CATCHER: I think a World Series would bring some blessings to Puerto Rico. I know we’re going to be better, next year or whatever it takes to recover from the hurricane, but I think it’s going to mean a lot. I think that is going to bring a lot of happiness to people in my hometown. They’re going to smile a lot. I think we’re waiting for this for a long time and I got the honor to be here. I think it’s going to be good for Puerto Rico.
My dad found a way to connect the TV to a car battery and that’s how he is watching the game. I don’t know how but he is doing it. There are like 10 people, 20 people in my house watching the games out of a battery (from a) car. And the happiness it brings them… You know how Puerto Ricans are, we’re always passionate about baseball, any sport. Like the World Baseball Classic, we put Puerto Rico together. I think that’s amazing. Maybe the Astros can do that too… Yea, we’re going to do it. We’re going to do it.