Álex Cora makes personal, emotional history with World Series win

LOS ANGELES – Soon after lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy with his triumphant Red Sox players, Álex Cora climbed off the makeshift stage at Dodger Stadium and went in search of his family on the infield grass Sunday night.

After guiding the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title over the Dodgers, Cora kept his young daughter Camila nearby as he ran through the gauntlet of reporters pleading to interview the first Puerto Rican manager, second Latino and seventh Red Sox manager to win a championship.

Cora had his family on his mind and his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico, in his heart after beating the Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5 to win the Fall Classic, four games to one. This title was for Boston and Puerto Rico.

It also was for his parents, his sisters, his wife, daughter, brother Joey and every Latino player, coach and manager who helped clear a path for him along the way.

Puerto Rico Proud

It’s an understatement to say that it has been a difficult 14 months for Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused through the Isla Del Encanto on Sept. 21, 2017.

Cora and his fellow Puerto Ricans around the majors have devoted their free time, money and celebrity to help bring awareness and funds to Puerto Rico since Maria ravaged their proud island.

Cora has felt his island’s pain and he has worked to ease the hurt still felt back home. He knows that his glorious march through the 2018 postseason has given his fellow boricuas something to ease their suffering.

“I’m very proud of you,” Cora said when asked what message he had for his hometown of Caguas. “I’m proud of what you have done in the last 13 months, 14 months.

“This [World Series title] is very special, but for me what’s more special is the way we’re recovering, the way we’re living day to day. I know you’re very proud of me. You’ve told me repeatedly, but I’m more proud of you.”

The Journey

Cora became just the fifth rookie manager in major league history to win a World Series title and the first since Bob Brenly accomplished the feat with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.

He is the seventh Red Sox manager to win a title and one of only four to lead the franchise to a championship in their first season in Boston.

Closer to home, he joins his good friend Ozzie Guillén as the only Latino manager to win a World Series. Cora’s older brother Joey, 53, was actually a coach on Guillén’s staff when the mercurial Venezuelan made history by leading the Chicago White Sox to sweep over the Houston Astros in the 2005 Fall Classic.

“That’s my brother, and I was very proud of him in 2005,” Álex Cora said of Guillén. “They eliminated us and then were world champions. Obviously Joey was there. Truly, I’m proud of Ozzie and Joey. To be able to join that group is something very special.”

Rookie success

On the field, at least, Cora has lived quite the charmed life recently with one of the best touches in Major League Baseball.

He played a pivotal role as bench coach in 2017 while helping the young Astros win the franchise’s first World Series title. He interviewed for the Red Sox position during the 2017 American League Championship Series between Houston and the Yankees.

He welcomed the challenge to manage under the intense pressure of Boston, a city where the media and the fans can be among the most critical in America.

Cora, who turned 43 on Oct. 18 during the ALCS, led the Red Sox to a franchise record 108th victory. He then eliminated the rival Yankees in the Division Series before bouncing the defending champions from the ALCS in five games before needing only five games to dispatch the two-time defending NL champion Dodgers.

“You know, [Cora is] an amazing man,” World Series Most Valuable Player Steve Pearce said. “He always seems to make the right moves. Whatever he says, we listen and we do it.

“We gelled together behind him, and everybody knew their roles because he was such a great leader. We followed him. I couldn’t have asked for a better manager to play with, play for. In this great moment that we’ve had, it’s been a great season, and he’s definitely been the head of all of it, and it’s great playing for him.”

Pearce got the Red Sox started with a two-run home run to left in the first inning, setting the tone against ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw before a stunned sellout crowd of 54,367.

The Dodgers countered with a run in the bottom of the inning, but Mookie Betts added a solo home run in the sixth.

J.D. Martinez homered in the seventh to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead off Kershaw. Pearce added another home run in the eighth off reliever Pedro Baez to cap the scoring on a night veteran left-hander David Price limited the Dodgers to one run, three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over seven brilliant innings.

Celebration Time

A year after watching the Houston Astros celebrate at Dodger Stadium after a winner-take-all Game 7, the Dodgers watched the Red Sox celebrate a title after Game 5 on Sunday night.

“What Álex did means a lot,” Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez, a fellow Puerto Rican, said. “What happened with Puerto Rico with Maria, he’s going to open a lot of doors for us and for Latin America. I’m so proud of him.”

When told of Vázquez’s comments, Cora did what he’s been doing all year. He put the focus on his players.

“He did too,” Cora said of Vázquez. “He was amazing. He played great. Enrique (Hernandez of the Dodgers) did a good job. We’re just proud to be world champs.”

Then Cora put his arm around his daughter and headed off to another interview. He wanted to keep his family close and let them share in his championship glow.

“They all had to help in one way or another to have a part of this,” he said of his spouse, parents, children and siblings. “I’m very grateful for them to put up with me.

“I know there are times when I’m not easy and I don’t show the affection and love that I feel for them. This is a situation that isn’t easy. They understand that I love and care for them and that this is for them.”

Featured Image: Harry How / Getty Images Sport