Baseballs Importance to Puerto Rican Culture

David Cruz

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Many mention “this tiny little island’’ when referring to their homeland, which is approximately 3,500 square miles. Nor was it shocking to find out Beltran shed tears of joy when Puerto Rico advanced to the championship round with its victory Saturday against the United States, or that All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor wept as well after Monday’s win. It means that much to them. “We’re bringing the whole country together,’’ Lindor said. The clubs success is putting Puerto Rico in a positive light, and the players’ enormous pride in their native land can’t help but reflect on their fellow islanders. Even team members like Hector Santiago and Mike Aviles, who have Puerto Rican ancestry but were born and raised in the U.S., have spoken of how proud they feel to represent the island. Their achievements, along with those of the WBC team, figure to inspire legions of youngsters to pursue baseball despite the availability of more sporting options than in, say, the neighboring Dominican Republic, where the game rules supreme. Major League Baseball has launched some initiatives to rekindle interest and provide enhanced opportunities for young Puerto Ricans to showcase their talent, and the impressive WBC performance can only help those efforts. After he drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly Monday, outfielder Eddie Rosario was asked in a TV interview what message he’d like to send back home. “Puerto Rico, I love you,’’ he said in Spanish. “We are all united here.’’ United and proud, fiercely proud.
            On Dec. 31, 1972, A Puerto Rican legend passed away. At first heard as a rumor, then sadly confirmed, Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente Walker had died in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to the victims of a devastating earthquake that had struck Nicaragua weeks before. He was 38. It was unbelievable. Together with Orlando “Peruchin” Cepeda, Clemente was the island’s main star in major league baseball. Among his accomplishments, the still-active player had won four batting titles, 12 Gold Gloves, two World Series titles and a National League MVP award, plus he registered a .317 lifetime batting average. Only months before, in September, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit, an almost unattainable milestone at that time. In October, he had managed the Puerto Rican team at the Amateur World Series held in Managua. Afterward, he fulfilled his dream of offering free baseball clinics to children throughout Puerto Rico. “Of the many, many people I have met in this dynamic radio and television line of work, I haven’t met anybody with such incredible qualities of humanism and discipline, of being a good father, a good son. Roberto was an exemplary human being,” said the broadcast journalist, who narrated dozens of Clemente’s games on radio and TV. To get a sense for the significance Puerto Ricans put on the World Baseball Classic, consider their team’s two veterans Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Both decorated veterans have put together careers worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, both played in at least 147 games last season – and both are participating in their fourth WBC. They’re not the only highly credentialed players with such a distinction. Venezuela’s Miguel Cabrera and Mexico’s Adrian Gonzalez have also played in every

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