Pirates to bring relief supplies to Puerto Rico

Pirates to bring relief supplies to Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON -- The day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Pirates owner Bob Nutting approached third-base coach Joey Cora with two questions.

"First, he asked about my family," said Cora, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico. "Second, he said, 'What can we do to help?'"

The Pirates announced their answer on Sunday morning. Pirates Charities and Pittsburgh coaches, players and front-office staff are working with FedEx to collect and gather hurricane-relief supplies that they will deliver personally to Puerto Rico.

Nutting, Cora, Sean Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli and special assistant/team interpreter Mike Gonzalez are among those who will make the trip to deliver supplies.

"As the home of Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico has a special place in the hearts of our organization and all of Pittsburgh. We are proud to join with FedEx and other local organizations to help in the collective efforts of bringing needed relief and comfort to its people," Nutting said in a statement. "Bringing like-minded organizations and our fans together to make a tangible and lasting impact on those in need is what Pirates Charities is all about."

The club will hold a relief-supply drive on Monday and Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, at the Mazeroski Way cul-de-sac just outside PNC Park. The Pirates are encouraging fans to bring new, unopened items -- including bottled water, non-perishable food, baby formula and diapers, hand sanitizer, garbage bags, pet food and batteries.

Pirates players, coaches and alumni will attend the drive at various times to help accept the donations. Each fan who makes a donation will receive a Clemente jersey T-shirt.

The relief effort is especially meaningful to Cora, who has heard from family and friends who are "hanging in there, like everybody else" in Puerto Rico, without power or running water. Cora was determined to make the trip personally, delivering aid to those in need.

"We promised the players that we're going to make sure that whatever we give, we're going to give it to the people in need. That's my responsibility," Cora said. "We're going to make sure the supplies get to the people. We're going to get it done."

Cora was particularly touched by Nutting's personal concern. According to Cora, Nutting's initial round of questions came on Sept. 20, the day the storm made landfall in Puerto Rico. He came back the next day, again asking how the Pirates could help.

"For the owner to do that, you say, 'Whoa,'" Cora said. "We came together and said, 'They're going to need help.' He said, 'OK, let's get our heads together and work it out. We're going to help.'"

They came up with the idea of a relief-supply drive but kept running into the same question: How would they get them there?

Inspired by Clemente, they decided to do it themselves.

"We said, 'What would [Clemente] do?' That's what I kept coming back to. What he would do," Cora said. "The way he died was getting supplies to Nicaragua on a plane. I said, 'That will be the way. We've got to go and make sure that we get supplies and we go there. We're going to the place, not giving it to somebody or writing a check. No, we've got to go there and work and help people ourselves.'

"That's what he would do. We're trying to keep that legacy going. That's what Clemente would do."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.