Wednesday April 24th, 2019 10:08PM

'People are still suffering': MLB back in storm-hit San Juan

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hiram Bithorn's statue is no longer standing. The stadium bearing his name is ready to bustle again.

That's an apt way to show how things are right now in Puerto Rico, which is about to host its most significant sporting events since Hurricane Maria dramatically ravaged the islands seven months ago. Major League Baseball returns Tuesday to San Juan, with Cleveland and Minnesota opening a two-game series that many hope will remind the rest of the world that recovery from the storm is far from over.

"I hate to say it, but this is a great platform, so people can see the reality," said Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a native Puerto Rican and someone who bought tickets to Indians-Twins for his family — and wishes it was his team playing in San Juan this week. "We're much better than six, seven months ago, whenever it was. But we've still got work to do."

The evidence of that is everywhere in San Juan, and only becomes more prevalent as one ventures into more remote areas of the islands.

Blue tarps still cover countless roofs that were damaged. Many electronic signs along major highways aren't working, traffic lights remain out even in some of San Juan's more upscale areas, and around the airport there are towering palm trees that no longer stand straight — they're curved, yet another reminder of the wind that lashed into them.

Bithorn, the first Puerto Rican to play in the majors, was commemorated by a statue outside the stadium where the Twins and Indians will play. The statue blew over in the storm, landing face-first on the concrete. The massive base of the statue is still there, but the bronze replica of Bithorn in uniform is nowhere to be found.

"People are still suffering over there," Houston Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa, who hails from Puerto Rico, said Sunday. "And to be able to bring baseball, the sport that we love the most, back to my hometown — it's going to be amazing. A lot of people are looking forward to it. I'm pretty sure it's sold out already and it's going to be a life-changing experience for a lot of kids who can't travel to the United States to watch a big league game."

Maria was the third-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, hitting Puerto Rico as a high-end Category 4 storm on Sept. 20. It arrived with 155 mph winds, barely below the threshold for Category 5 status. Hurricanes weaken over land, when they're not drawing energy from warm water to fuel their wrath, but wind speeds when Maria was done with her path across the island were merely down to about 110 mph.

Maria was blamed for 65 deaths in Puerto Rico. But that figure is way too low to be fully accurate; even the National Hurricane Center, in its recently released report on the storm, said it "should be noted that hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria's aftermath pending the results of an official government review."

As far as the cost, in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands alone Maria is estimated to have caused up to $115 billion in damage.

"There are thousands of people still with nothing over there," Correa said. "No house. No roof. No power. No food. No water. And we still need to help."

A pair of baseball games won't fix all the issues, of course.

But the mere sense of normalcy, in abnormal times, will help.

"We have a chance to have influence," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Some of it is resource, some of it is just, you put your words and your presence there and it brings significance to the efforts that are ongoing. So MLB, the Twins and the Indians have all done a good job of coordinating as many things as we can during the course of those three days without detracting from the fact that we're there to play baseball."

The Twins, the Indians, MLB officials and Baseball Hall of Famers — some, like Roberto Alomar, are from Puerto Rico; some, like Cal Ripken Jr., are not — will be across the island this week. Clinics for kids will be held. Money will be raised and distributed. Supplies will be left behind. Twins employees are planning to aid workers trying to restore water and power. Indians CEO Paul Dolan will help plant native trees to replace some those that were destroyed.

And then for 18 innings or so on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 18,000 fans at Hiram Bithorn Stadium will get to cheer again.

"It's always good to have a reminder that we have work to do," Cora said. "People don't realize it. There's people in the mountains that have no water, no power. It's been like six, seven months. That's tough. Sometimes (in the U.S.) we complain that we don't have power for three days and we're going nuts. Imagine having that."


AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minneapolis and Kristie Rieken in Houston, along with Associated Press Writers Jeremy Rakes in Houston and Ken Powtak in Boston, contributed to this report.


More AP baseball:

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Sports - Major League Baseball
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
'People are still suffering': MLB back in storm-hit San Juan
Major League Baseball returns to Puerto Rico this week, when Cleveland and Minnesota visit the storm-ravaged island
5:54PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health
A family spokesman says former first lady Barbara Bush is in 'failing health' and won't seek additional medical treatment
5:34PM ( 26 minutes ago )
The Latest: Completion of Bristol race postponed to Monday
NASCAR says the completion of the Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed until Monday
5:10PM ( 49 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Celtics survive wild finish, hold off Bucks 113-107 in OT
Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds and the Boston Celtics overcame Khris Middleton's long 3 that beat the fourth-quarter buzzer, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-107 in overtime in their playoff opener
4:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Rain causes 3rd red flag; Larson in lead
The Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been red-flagged for a third time due to weather just 46 laps shy of it becoming an official race
4:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Race resumes at Bristol; rain lingers in area
The cars are back on the track at Bristol Motor Speedway and action has resumed with 332 laps remaining the race
4:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Robinson's daughter says MLB players reluctant to speak out
Jackie Robinson's daughter thinks black baseball players are more reluctant to speak publicly about racial issues than their NFL and NBA colleagues because they constitute a lower percentage of rosters
1:32PM ( 4 hours ago )
Blue Jays-Indians postponed again; doubleheader on May 3
Rain postpones Blue Jays-Indians series finale; doubleheader set for May 3
12:33PM ( 5 hours ago )
1st game of Yankees-Tigers doubleheader postponed by rain
The first game of the split doubleheader between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers has been postponed because of rain
12:06PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
Early results show Djukanovic sweeping Montenegro vote
Montenegro's ruling party on Sunday declared its leader Milo Djukanovic the winner of a presidential election after preliminary projections showed him sweep the vote, avoiding a runoff
4:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
US to hit Russia with new sanctions for aiding Syria's Assad
The United States intends to impose new economic sanctions on Russia for enabling the Syrian government of Bashar Assad and its chemical weapons program
4:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Michigan storm power outages now above 300,000
Michigan's power outages caused by freezing rain from a deadly storm system have now grown to more than 300,000 homes and businesses
4:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Spring storm keeps central US in icy grip, hampering travel
A deadly storm system churning through the central U.S. has blanketed parts of the Upper Midwest in heavy snow and ice and battered areas farther south with powerful winds and even tornados
12:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
Trump defends 'mission accomplished' after strike on Syria
President Donald Trump is defending his use of the phrase "Mission Accomplished" to describe a U.S.-led issile attack on Syria's chemical weapons program
12:39PM ( 5 hours ago )
In a close race, 'Rampage' takes No. 1 from 'A Quiet Place'
Dwayne Johnson's big budget arcade game-based "Rampage" crept past last week's top film "A Quiet Place" to take the No. 1 spot on the box office charts, but just barely
12:03PM ( 5 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Snowy: Whole 3-game series between White Sox-Twins postponed
The entire three-game series between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins has been called off because of a spring snowstorm
6:59PM ( 23 hours ago )
Red Sox off to best start in 118-year history; beat O's 10-3
Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-3 on Saturday to get to 12-2 _ the best start in their 118-year history
5:31PM ( 1 day ago )
LEADING OFF: Cobb to make Orioles debut at Fenway Park
LEADING OFF: Alex Cobb to make Orioles debut at Fenway Park vs 11-2 Red Sox; Blue Jays without Donaldson for a while; MLB-leading Mets, minus 2 catchers, go for 10th straight win
4:35AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health
A family spokesman says former first lady Barbara Bush is in 'failing health' and won't seek additional medical treatment
5:34PM ( 26 minutes ago )
The Latest: Completion of Bristol race postponed to Monday
NASCAR says the completion of the Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed until Monday
5:10PM ( 49 minutes ago )
Flores, Syndergaard help Mets top Brewers 3-2 for 12-2 start
Wilmer Flores hit a game-winning home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the New York Mets beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 to improve the best start in team history to 12-2
5:07PM ( 52 minutes ago )
Boston marks 5 years since marathon attack with tributes
Boston is marking the fifth anniversary of the deadly Boston Marathon bombings with solemn remembrances and charitable acts
4:51PM ( 1 hour ago )
Syria's allies say airstrikes undercut political resolution
Syria's allies say the West's airstrikes undermine prospects of a political solution to the seven-year conflict
4:50PM ( 1 hour ago )