Inspired by Clemente, Pirates aid Puerto Rico

Club raises 460,000 pounds of supplies, $225,000 for hurricane relief

Inspired by Clemente, Pirates aid Puerto Rico

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates asked, and Pittsburgh delivered for Puerto Rico.

After two 12-hour days spent collecting hurricane relief items on Mazeroski Way outside PNC Park, the Pirates announced Wednesday that they gathered more than 460,000 pounds of supplies and more than $225,000 in donations that they will use to support Puerto Rico following the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

"Three days ago, four days ago, I'm not sure any of us could have imagined where we have ended up," Pirates owner and Pirates Charities chairman Bob Nutting said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "I truly cannot express my appreciation for all that's been done. I'm inspired, I'm humbled, I'm amazed by the outpouring of love, by the outpouring of support, by the outpouring of energy, of time, of effort and supplies that all of you and the city of Pittsburgh have come together. It's one of the most remarkable things that I have ever seen in my life."

A group of Pirates -- including Nutting, president Frank Coonelly, third-base coach Joey Cora, catcher Francisco Cervelli, infielder Sean Rodriguez and special assistant Mike Gonzalez -- will depart from Pittsburgh on Thursday to personally deliver the supplies to Cayey and Caguas, Puerto Rico.

"We're just getting started," Nutting said. "The real work begins tomorrow."

When their plan came into sharper focus, the Pirates decided they would need a plane to deliver everything themselves. As it turns out, they need two.

FedEx, which partnered with the Pirates to make this possible, will send two MD-11 cargo planes full of supplies. Nutting said the fans alone donated about 395,000 pounds of supplies, and the rest were provided by a variety of partners and local businesses.

Pirates players pooled together funds as well. Cora said they didn't want the amount known publicly; they just wanted to know their contributions would go directly to help Puerto Rico in this time of need.

Bucs' Puerto Rico supply drive

"People were coming in cars. They were walking from I-don't-know-where. Just to give us stuff," Cora said. "It was extraordinary. It was amazing."

The Pittsburgh community continued to come together on Wednesday. The Penguins and Steelers joined forces with the Pirates, each announcing a $25,000 donation to support their hurricane relief efforts and imploring their fans to contribute as well.

"This is something truly remarkable. It is something truly special," Nutting said. "It is really what Pirates Charities and this organization is all about, and it's what Pittsburgh is all about -- reaching out to people in need when they need it. This is a community that will rally."

From conception to conclusion, Roberto Clemente influenced the initiative. Clemente, who died following a plane crash while attempting to deliver relief supplies to Nicaragua, is remembered as much for his humanitarian work as his Hall of Fame baseball career.

Cora channeled the Puerto Rican Pirates icon on Wednesday when he said, "You don't need a "why" to do anything. All you have to do is do the right thing. … We're doing our part. We're doing the right thing.

"That's what we were thinking. What [Clemente] would have done," Cora added. "You don't need to retire No. 21 to know his legacy is going to last forever. Everybody in the world knows who No. 21 is. We -- as players, as coaches, front-office personnel, president, owner -- we're going to keep that legacy going no matter what."

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