Last week marked the first Major League Baseball games in Puerto Rico since 2010. Baseball players stayed away from Puerto Rico for fear of the Zika virus in 2016, and Hurricane Maria damaged the stadium in 2017.
In 2018, though, baseball is back. The Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians played a special two-game series, honoring the U.S. territory’s strong connection with baseball. Nearly 20,000 spectators filled the stands at Hiram Bithorn Stadium for the second game on Wednesday night.
The game could have been interrupted by yet another blackout, but in fact the stadium stayed lighted even though nearly all the homes and businesses around it lost power. ESPN was able to broadcast the game, with the help of generators and prioritization of repairs at the stadium.
The game went into 16 innings and lasted for more than 5 hours. Spectators might not have been in any hurry to go to their dark homes.
Players like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Báez were given heroes’ welcomes when they arrived in Puerto Rico. The players also traveled further than the stadium, visiting schools and demonstrating that Puerto Rico is open for business and tourism alike.
19 of the players in MLB 2018 opening rosters were born in Puerto Rico. This is the largest number of players from Puerto Rico since 2011. Puerto Rico has sent more than 200 players to the majors, beginning with Hiram Bithorn in 1942, but the past few years have been a low point for baseball in Puerto Rico.
Observers of the Twins-Indians games were talking about a baseball renaissance. Major League Baseball players have contributed significantly to recovery efforts since the hurricane, and enthusiasm for the special series was high.