When Álex Cora was given the reins with the Boston Red Sox, the Puerto Rico native stepped into one of the highest profile positions in the game.
In Cora’s first year as manager, the Red Sox are having one of the best regular seasons in big league history. He has also been aware of the realities away from the game. He has shown that he isn’t one who will stick to sports.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted doubts about the updated death toll from Hurricane Maria, which is estimated to have killed nearly 3,000, according to Puerto Rican officials.
Cora didn’t back away from a question about the tweet.
“To be tweeting about 3,000 people and being efficient, it’s actually disrespectful for my country,” Cora told Boston media Thursday. “We see it that way. I know he probably doesn’t feel that way.
“And like I said, ‘Hey, man, thank you for helping us.’ He went down there, he did what he did. I hate talking about politics and all that, but I think this is more than politics.”
Cora has had Puerto Rico on his mind since Hurricane Maria hit the island last Sept. 20. He was active while bench coach of the Houston Astros last postseason. While making a historic run to the franchise’s first World Series championship, the Astros helped Cora and many players from throughout the majors get to their families.
“The [Astros] organization [and owner Jim] Crane were outstanding to us,” Cora told La Vida Baseball. “He sent a plane down there, and we got 120 people to Houston, including my mom, my kids and my girlfriend. If it wasn’t for Mr. Crane, it was gonna be worse.”
Helping Puerto Rico became an off-the-field priority for Cora after he became manager of the Red Sox. As he was negotiating his contract with the Red Sox, club president and CEO Sam Kennedy told MLB.com that Cora made a significant request.
“At the end, he asked for one thing,” Kennedy told MLB.com. “Not for him or his family. He asked the Red Sox for relief help for the people of Puerto Rico, and specifically for his hometown of Caguas.”
In January, Cora personally delivered a JetBlue cargo plane carrying almost 10 tons of supplies to Caguas.
He was joined on the trip by Kennedy, assistant general manager Eddie Romero and Red Sox players Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Christian Vazquez. The group also donated $200,000 to Caguas mayor Miranda Marin to help restore electricity to the area.
“It was heartbreaking,” Cora said. “[Puerto Rico is] supposed to be green and surrounded by water. It seems like a ball of fire went through the forest, and everything was brown. You could see signs of Maria everywhere.
“The signs were down, the stop lights not working, darkness after 5:30 PM. … You know we had power and all of a sudden we didn’t have power. I kinda … lived through it a little bit but not as bad as the people back home lived through it when it happened.”
Roberto Clemente dreamed of being the first black manager in the majors but never got that chance. Cora is living Clemente’s dream as a big league manager.
More importantly, he also embodies Clemente’s legacy with his efforts to bring awareness and supplies to help rebuild Puerto Rico.
“This is about human beings,” he said. “The people that went through this, they know what happened.”
Featured Image: La Vida Baseball