Hall of Famer visits MLB.com upon return from island devastated by Hurricane Maria
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- Roberto Alomar likes Cleveland over Arizona in the World Series, but more important is what he hopes will have happened by the time that prediction has either come to fruition or fallen by the wayside: speedy signs of recovery in his homeland of Puerto Rico.
The Hall of Famer and 12-time All-Star second baseman visited the MLB.com studios in Manhattan on Wednesday, following four days of relief work in an island struggling for basic necessities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20.
"People are asking for water, for food, and it's sad to see people that way," Alomar said. "The Puerto Rican people are strong people, they believe in their country, and I'm proud to see that. I grew up in a small town [Ponce] in Puerto Rico. Thanks to Puerto Rico, I was able to be who I am today. If people help each other, we can stay strong and can rebuild Puerto Rico."
Major League Baseball and its extended family have undertaken a massive grassroots movement to help the U.S. territory, at the same time that voting is underway to decide the Roberto Clemente Award, named after the Puerto Rican legend who lost his life in a plane crash while delivering relief supplies to Nicaraguans affected by a natural disaster.
Alomar was here to encourage everyone to do more. Those interested in helping out can join MLB's crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com/MLBSupports, or join forces with Alomar Sports and donate to his own Foundation 12, as all funds raised there in October will support Puerto Rican hurricane victims.
"In my hometown in Puerto Rico, one of my family members lost his house," Alomar said. "So I'm going to try to encourage everybody to donate so we can help them over there, just give them some hope so they can get up again, and just continue to walk, and live life.
"There's a lot of people there, we don't know if they're alive or not, especially kids. In the south of Puerto Rico, you don't get Internet, cell phones aren't working. Now banks are working, gas is coming, but we still can't get to other people."
At a time when so many young Puerto Rican players are commanding major roles in the postseason -- like infielders Francisco Lindor of the Indians, Carlos Correa of the Astros and Javier Baez of the Cubs -- the sad part is that many people in their homeland are unable to see the very stars who give them so much pride, hope and joy.
"With no electricity, you cannot watch the games," Alomar said. "That's what people don't understand. You can't watch the game. We might be able to watch it in San Juan, but not everybody lives in San Juan. I know where I'm from, they cannot watch the games."
Alomar stressed the need for water, medicines, fuel for generators and milk and formula for children. Baseball continues to contribute in major ways.
MLB donated $1 million to various organizations for the immediate relief and long-term recovery effort following recent disasters affecting Puerto Rico, as well as Texas and Mexico. The MLB Players Association also donated $1 million.
The Pirates announced Wednesday that their players, coaches and front office staff -- inspired by the memory of Clemente -- collected more than 450,000 pounds of supplies for Puerto Rico during a two-day supply drive at PNC Park. The response of Pirates fans has been overwhelming, as thousands of Pittsburghers came to PNC Park to donate supplies.
Pirates Charities, along with its project partner FedEx, will deliver those supplies to the island on Thursday and oversee the distribution of goods to those most in need, including Pirates third base coach Joey Cora's hometown of Caguas.
D-backs owner Ken Kendrick sent his private plane to Puerto Rico on Sept. 28, filled with supplies such as bug spray/repellent, baby formula, flashlights and tents to give to the Red Cross.
An American Airlines flight carried 10 generators, a case of batteries and 30 cases of water donated by the Cubs as cargo on its first flight to San Juan since Hurricane Maria hit the island last week. Baez is selling limited edition T-shirts with proceeds for hurricane relief.
Jorge Posada and his wife Laura have raised more than $300,000 on their YouCaring.com page. On Monday, they arrived in the island for the fourth time since Maria struck, along with celebrities including Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan. Each time they bring supplies in the plane, and then return to Miami with people who need treatment on the mainland.
The Dodgers' $100,000 donation is split amongst the three disasters. Enrique Hernandez's wife started a YouCaring.com page that had raised nearly $72,000 toward its $100,000 goal as of Wednesday.
The Mets' gate collection at Citi Field on Sept. 24-26 inspired donations from fans to fill four 18-wheelers and two additional ones filled with donations from corporate partners. The Mets partnered with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Empire State Relief & Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and his wife, Wanda, set up a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $145,000 toward a $1 million goal. That included a $10,000 donation by his teammate Kolten Wong.
The Rangers donated proceeds from their Texas 2 Split 50/50 Raffle on Sept. 25 to United for Puerto Rico-Unidos por Puerto Rico, an organization that has raised nearly $300,000. Rangers legend Pudge Rodriguez has collected hundreds of thousands of pounds of supplies, sending via plane and ship.
"We're getting better. We're strong people, but people are dying to drink water, to look for food," Alomar said. "Even the gas station, you're waiting almost four hours for gas, and they can only give you $20 of gas. Supermarkets are packed. There's a lot of things going on over there."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.