The Red Sox have a new manager. Alex Cora, leaving the Houston Astros for the Red Sox, was also the General Manager of what is being described as “the Puerto Rico national team.”
Puerto Rico is not a nation, so there is no national team, strictly speaking. But “territorial team” doesn’t sound right, so the team is usually called the “national team” in English. In Spanish, it’s the Selección de béisbol de Puerto Rico.
The use of the phrase “national team” also reflects an emotional connection. The feeling of “sports sovereignty”, a sense of nationalism centering on the Island’s sports teams, gives the idea of a “national team” psychological reality, even though Puerto Rico is not and has never been an independent nation.
Baseball, the most popular spectator sport in Puerto Rico, started on the Island in 1897, when two baseball clubs were formed by players who had picked the game up in the United States. The first public game was played in January of 1898. Later that year, when Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, U.S. military personnel put together teams and joined Puerto Rican and Cuban players. By 1938, there were six teams in a semi-professional league.
Baseball is clearly important to Puerto Rico, and the team is a source of pride for the whole Island.They won top place in the World Baseball Cup (then called the “Amateur World Series”) in 1951, and captured second place three times and third place four times.
They’ve been in the Olympics twice, and took the bronze medal in 1988, when baseball was an exhibition sport. They’ve also placed well in the World Baseball Classic, the Intercontinental Cup, the Pan American Games, and in the Caribbean Series, where they have been champions 14 times.
Puerto Rico strongly supports players who have moved on to the Major Baseball league in the States, including Roberto Clemente and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who is a member of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission.
There have been 200 Major League Baseball players from Puerto Rico.
Born in Caguas and educated at the University of Miami, Cora was an infielder during his career on the field. He played for the Mets, the Texas Rangers, and the Dodgers, as well as the Red Sox and the Washington Nationals. He was a color analyst for ESPN for three years, and then went on to become a bench coach for the Houston Astros.
The Astros were his longest engagement, but the Red Sox come a close second. He has been with them for 300 games so far, and will join them as manager after the World Series.
Cora lives in Caguas out of season, with his wife and four children.