William Miranda Torres, mayor of Caguas, Puerto Rico, professes no allegiance to a particular major league team. Before this year, he had a straightforward way to decide who to root for come World Series time.
After talking with friends about whom they are rooting for, he would often look at which team roster has more Puerto Ricans, or has a connection to Caguas, and root for that team.
His calculation changed last December when the Boston Red Sox hired Álex Cora.
That hire, and especially what Cora and the Red Sox did for Caguas afterwards, made choosing sides in the 2018 World Series between Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers rather easy.
“Willito,” as the mayor is affectionately known, and the overwhelming majority of Caguas are rooting for Boston.
“I am a fan of the Cora family,” Miranda Torres said.
A Baseball Family
The Cora name has been synonymous with baseball in Caguas since the 1960s. Their father, José Manuel Cora, was a leading promoter of youth baseball in Caguas, He also covered the Caguas Criollos of the Puerto Rican Winter League as a broadcaster and occasionally served as the official scorekeeper at games; his children grew up around Parque Yldefonso Solá Morales, the Criollos’ stadium.
“By the time I started working in baseball in Puerto Rico, José Cora was baseball royalty in Caguas,” recalls Luis Rodríguez Mayoral, who worked stints as general manager of the San Juan and Guayama teams in the Puerto Rican Winter League. “He was all class, all of Caguas loved him,” Rodríguez Mayoral said.
Miranda Torres can appreciate a patrilineal tradition as a native of Caguas and the son of a long-serving mayor of the city. It’s with a measure of pride that he says the baseball league in the Villa Nueva community in Caguas is named Liga José M. Cora in honor of the Cora patriarch’s work in building up baseball in Caguas.
Forming New Bonds
When Boston hired Álex Cora, he was just the fourth Puerto Rican to be named a manager in the major leagues, joining Edwin Rodríguez, Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Dave Martínez—who the Washington Nationals had hired just two months before.
His hiring also changed the relationship between Caguas and Boston, giving those from the Puerto Rican town a personal connection to the Red Sox through Cora.
Miranda Torres already felt a connection to Boston though. “I always liked Boston. I had lots of friends who went to college and university [there],” he said.
But after the Red Sox hired Cora, Mayor Miranda Torres and the residents of Caguas formed a deeper bond with the City on a Hill, one borne of tragedy and hope.
According to Miranda Torres, “De Caguas pa’l mundo” (From Caguas to the world) is an expression that Alex Cora likes to use, a measure of hometown pride in the way his city prepared him for the world away from it.
But, as Miranda Torres reminds us, this works both ways. Caguas may have exported some of its greatest baseball talent to Major League Baseball, but when the city was in need, baseball gave back.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, offers of assistance came from various corners of MLB. Of particular note were the efforts of the Pittsburgh Pirates and their third base coach, Álex’s brother Joey, and the Red Sox, after they hired Cora.
The Red Sox brought food and water to Caguas and made a $200,000 donation. Miranda Torres says this money is vital for Caguas’s efforts to rebuild and be better prepared for the next powerful hurricane. Miranda Torres says the donation “will be used for community aqueducts powered by a photovoltaic system” – solar power – “so that in the case of another event [like María], families in our communities could have power.”
Preparation is Key
In a sense, the donation the Red Sox made to Caguas’s power needs is Cora paying it forward by paying the city back; Cora spent time as the manager of the Caguas Criollos in the 2015-16 season of the Puerto Rican Winter League. He later took on the general manager role as Caguas won not just consecutive Puerto Rican titles but also claimed the Caribbean World Series.
All of this experience made the Red Sox manager much better prepared than your typical first-year big league manager and arguably helped Cora and the team get to this year’s World Series.
This doesn’t surprise Miranda Torres. Rather, he sees Cora doing exactly the same things in Boston that he did in Caguas.
“The rapport he had with his players produced a different dynamic. He has a way of interacting with people that is very agreeable and that produces good chemistry on a team,” Miranda Torres observed.
The baseball pride of Caguas was once the father and is now the son. For the city can now claim that the it helped get Álex Cora “De Caguas pa’l Serial Mundial” (From Caguas to the World Series).
Featured Image: Billie Weiss / Boston Red Sox