MLB.com Columnist

Jesse Sanchez

Fuentes family thrilled to be in Arizona for WC

Outfielder's clan grateful to Kendrick, D-backs for aid following hurricane

Fuentes family thrilled to be in Arizona for WC

PHOENIX -- The National League Wild game at Chase Field is tonight and Pedro Fuentes, the father of D-backs outfielder Rey Fuentes, can't believe he is here.

The elder Fuentes is biting his bottom lip and rubbing his teary eyes. His eyes dart left toward the hallway in front of the manager's office and then right toward the locker room's front door, not far from Fernando Rodney's locker.

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Last week, the Fuentes family were among the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico struggling to survive after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Today, Pedro is standing in front of his son's locker hoping Ken Kendrick walks by so he can thank the D-backs owner for sending a private plane to pick up him and his family.

"Mr. Kendrick and this organization saved our lives and are helping people back in Puerto Rico," Pedro Fuentes said. "He didn't even hesitate, and I'm so grateful he did that. I can't wait to meet him and hug him and make sure that I give him my respect. He didn't have to do what he did. How do you thank a person for such generosity?"

Last Friday, the D-backs sent 2,000 pounds of goods, including medical supplies, water, baby formula and other non-perishable items and supplies to Puerto Rico in Kendrick's plane as part of a partnership with Fry's grocery stores and the Red Cross and Project C.U.R.E. They brought back Pedro, his wife, Olga, and 22-year-old daughter, Ashley, to Arizona. The family is staying with Rey in Scottsdale.

"When I learned that Rey's parents were stranded in Puerto Rico and that it was his desire to bring them over here as quickly as possible, I asked Ken if he would consider sending his plane," said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall. "It was an immediate 'yes.' And to add to that, the next day I told him that one of my daughter's teachers had elderly parents there that she wanted to rescue. He quickly said, 'Find them and bring them back too.' He is an incredibly generous person with a heart of gold."

Rey Fuentes was unable to communicate with his family in Puerto Rico for four days after the hurricane hit the island, and he was understandably distraught in the days that followed the storm. He says he feels a sense of relief to have his family with him in Arizona, but he also knows the people on his island are still suffering and need help. The Fuenteses are organizing aid to help the displaced in Puerto Rico.

Fuentes proud of his son, Rey

Several Major League Baseball players, including Fuentes' cousin Carlos Beltran are also raising money for hurricane relief. Beltran, who plays for the Astros, donated $1 million. Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Major League Baseball Players Association are also offering aid to those affected by the storm.

"There was wind blowing for more than 12 or 13 hours constantly at over 140, 150 miles per hour," Pedro said. "We saw a lot of destruction, and when you see something you love destroyed, it hurts. They say the trees, and the forests and all that green life is going to take more than 50 years to grow, and maybe I won't be alive to see it again.

"I'm never going to see Puerto Rico the way it was again. That's very sad. It's hard not to think about it."

A D-backs playoff run would be a welcome distraction for the Fuentes family. Rey, who has been slowed by a stiff back, is feeling better, and there's a good chance he will be named to the playoff roster as a backup outfielder. Fuentes also played a key role for Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic team in March.

"It's bittersweet to be here," Pedro said. "My sister, my brother, my father, who is going on 76 now, are all there. I know I need to go back to help them and the people there, but I have to find Mr. Kendrick first."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.