Carlos Beltran will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the two-game Puerto Rico Series between the Indians and the Twins at the historic Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, which begins Tuesday.
"I threw out the first pitch in Houston on the day of the World Series ring ceremony, and I have to admit, I was kind of nervous," Beltran said. "Let me tell you something, since I retired, I have not picked up a bat or played catch, but I think I can still throw a little bit if I warmed up right."
Beltran's biggest public offering, however, comes from a much deeper place. The nine-time All-Star wants to remind everyone that while Hurricane Maria devastated his homeland last fall, the storm didn't topple the people's resolve, crush the island's spirit or diminish its people's love of baseball. He's happy that Major League Baseball is returning to the island in full force.
MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association will be in San Juan this week to play two regular-season games, while giving back to an island that has played an important role in the sport's history.
"We always want to come back to Puerto Rico and have great games, and showcase our great players, and it's my understanding the games are sold out, which shows the people's passion for the game, but we are also here to give back," said Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for MLB. "There's a long history of being involved in Puerto Rico, and our players have been very community-minded here for many years. We want people to see what is going on in the island in terms of restoration and relief and recovery, and see that it has always been a fantastic place for people to go and it's open for business."
Starting Monday and continuing through Wednesday, MLB and MLBPA will team up to commemorate the Puerto Rico Series with special events, ceremonies, project unveilings, school visits by the players and more. The busy week offers yet another sign that Puerto Rico, while still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria, remains one of the most attractive destinations in the Caribbean.
La isla del encanto, the enchanted island, is back in business.
"Being in Puerto Rico and understanding the situation and what the island has gone through in the last seven or eight months, it's good to see baseball back on the island," said Beltran, who is in the process of building 200 homes in Puerto Rico through his foundation. "I'm happy MLB is trying to make the most of the two games by helping people and letting them know they care and are not forgotten."
The week's events begin early Monday morning with the Puerto Rico Series Golf Invitational, hosted by Major League Baseball Charities and featuring Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Roberto Alomar, along with former players Ed Figueroa, Orlando Merced, Joe Nathan and Dickie Thon. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico and Habitat for Humanity.
Later Monday morning, Indians All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor will host a clinic for approximately 250 students at Escuela Villa Marina, his former grammar school in Gurabo, as part of the "Players Going Home" program.
On Monday afternoon, Twins starter Jose Berrios and a group of his Twins teammates will visit patients at San Jorge Children's Hospital in San Juan. Berrios' teammate Eddie Rosario will run a clinic for 75 students at Escuela Dr. Rafael Lopez Landon, his old high school in Guayama, later in the afternoon.
Monday's events wrap up with a "Play Ball" event, free and open to young people throughout Greater San Juan at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, and a special 17U matchup of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) teams from Aguadilla and Carolina.
Tuesday morning begins with a celebration of the expansion of a Boys & Girls Club facility at the Ramos Antonini Housing Complex in the Río Piedras area of San Juan. Special guests include Commissioner Rob Manfred, former Major Leaguer Carlos Delgado and several Boys & Girls Clubs of America officials, including Jim Clark, president and CEO, and Eduardo Carrera, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico.
A few hours later, players from the Twins and Indians, along with representatives from Habitat for Humanity, will unveil new mobile response units -- a cargo van and a truck -- to support home construction and repairs across the island. MLB financed the outfitting and stocking of the vehicles with supplies. Manfred, Rosario, Lindor and Indians catcher Roberto Perez are scheduled to attend the event. Tjada McKenna, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, and Amanda Silva, the executive director of Habitat /for Humanity Puerto Rico, will also be special guests.
Major League Baseball will also honor eight first responders, who put their lives at risk during Hurricane Maria, in a pregame ceremony before the first game of the Puerto Rico Series on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, officials from MLB, the family of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, along with Indians and Twins players and other special guests will attend a special ceremony to reveal a memorial marker in honor of Clemente. The marker will be placed at the shoreline near the waters where Clemente's plane crashed on Dec. 31, 1972, following the ceremony.
Before the second game of the series, MLB, Berrios and Perez will participate in a special pregame ceremony in support of Little Leaguers on the island. MLB provided new equipment and apparel to 150 Little League youth softball and baseball teams, reaching a total of more than 2,000 players. MLBPA's Players Trust will also present a check to Feeding America before the second game of the series.
Other events include a pair of Leadership Cleveland volunteer projects, two Twins employee volunteer events and a Twins luncheon for approximately 50 youth from Cardinal PR Sports. Additionally, MLB will offset the carbon impact of the players' travel to and from San Juan through Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
"We are extremely happy to be coming to Puerto Rico to showcase the greatest players in the world, some of whom are playing in front of their families for the first time as Major Leaguers, and give back," Brasuell said. "We urge people to come and see all the great Puerto Rico has to offer."