For some, Puerto Rico trip a home­com­ing

He­roes do out­reach in re­turn for MLB se­ries in San Juan

The Detroit News - - Baseball - BY TIM REYNOLDS As­so­ci­ated Press

Guyabo, Puerto Rico — In­di­ans star Fran­cisco Lin­dor held a base­ball in his hand, ready to pitch, and asked the young boy stand­ing at the plate if he knew how to swing a bat.

The kid said no.

The kid might have been fib­bing. Lin­dor’s soft-toss pitch be­came a line drive, and the kid at Es­cuela Villa Ma­rina — the same gram­mar school that Lin­dor at­tended years ago — looked at the All-Star short­stop and grinned as on­look­ers ap­plauded.

“This is what it’s about,” Lin­dor said.

Cleve­land and Min­ne­sota are in Puerto Rico to play a twogame se­ries in San Juan start­ing tonight. But the In­di­ans and Twins also know they’re serv­ing a larger pur­pose on this trip, which is why many of the play­ers from both teams ven­tured out among the Puerto Ri­can peo­ple Mon­day to give back to an is­land that was robbed of so much by Hur­ri­cane Maria last Septem­ber.

Lin­dor went back to his first school in Guyabo, his home­town. Min­ne­sota’s Jose Ber­rios, who will start on the mound for the Twins in his home­land on Wed­nes­day night, vis­ited a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal in San Juan and was flanked by many of his team­mates. Twins out­fielder Ed­die Rosario, like Lin­dor, also went home — he was head­lin­ing a clinic in Guayama, the city where he grew up.

“It’s an honor. It’s a priv­i­lege,” Lin­dor said at the school where some lo­cal res­i­dents were stand­ing out­side the chain-link fence more than an hour be­fore he ar­rived, hop­ing to just catch a glimpse of Guyabo’s fa­vorite son. “I’m blessed to be here. It’s a dream and I’m ex­cited. Stuff like that is some­thing I al­ways wanted to do. As soon as I was a pro­fes­sional base­ball player, I al­ways wanted to come back and do some­thing like this spe­cial for the kids — not for me, for the kids, for the com­mu­nity.”

Ber­rios knows what Lin­dor is feel­ing. On Wed­nes­day night, Ber­rios, a right-han­der from Baya­mon — lo­cated just south of San Juan — is ex­pected to be­give come the sec­ond Puerto Ri­can pitcher to start a reg­u­lar-sea­son big-league game at Hi­ram Bithorn Sta­dium. Javier Vazquez started four in 2003, when the park was used as an al­ter­nate home field by the Mon­treal Ex­pos.

“It’s emo­tional,” Ber­rios said. “I feel it al­ready. The sta­dium where we’re play­ing, Roberto Cle­mente played there. My dad watched him play there. Grow­ing up, I watched base­ball there. And now we’re go­ing to play there.”

Part of this trip is about giv­ing, and the In­di­ans elected to a full play­off share, roughly $37,000, from last sea­son to causes in Puerto Rico. Some of that money is go­ing to the Nues­tra Es­cuela school, which was hit hard by Hur­ri­cane Maria. The wives of In­di­ans play­ers col­lab­o­rated on a sep­a­rate do­na­tion as well.

“Ab­so­lutely hon­ored,” said Ana Yris Gus­man Tor­res, the school’s prin­ci­pal, as she clutched the check that was brought in an In­di­ans en­ve­lope. “We will make the best use of it that we can.”

Much more is com­ing over the next cou­ple days on the do­na­tion fronts.

To­day, a cargo van and truck that will serve as mo­bile re­sponse units — fi­nanced by MLB — will be de­liv­ered, both ve­hi­cles out­fit­ted and loaded with sup­plies to as­sist in the on­go­ing home-re­pair and con­struc­tion ef­forts in Puerto Rico. Wed­nes­day, an­other check from MLB will be de­liv­ered to give more than 2,000 Lit­tle League play­ers new uni­forms and ap­parel, as well as a do­na­tion from the MLB Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and Play­ers Trust to Feed­ing Amer­ica.

“Sports, it’s un­der­rated,” for­mer big-league great Bobby Bonilla, who was born in New York but is of Puerto Ri­can de­scent, said as he watched Lin­dor in­ter­act with hun­dreds of kids — with a tat­tered blue tarp blow­ing off one roof in the dis­tance. “Sports heals. Big time.”

Mon­day’s NL

Colorado 6, (at) Pitts­burgh 2: Trevor Story drilled a three-run home run, Ger­man Mar­quez pitched six ef­fec­tive in­nings and the Rock­ies kept their road surge go­ing. Char­lie Black­mon added his team-lead­ing sev­enth home run for Colorado.

Elsa/Getty Im­ages

Aaron Judge of the Yan­kees watches his fourth home run of the year in the sec­ond in­ning against the Marlins Mon­day in New York.

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