Homecoming king: Lindor homers in return to PR

Shortstop sends Puerto Rico crowd into frenzy rounding bases

April 18th, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Horns blared. Methodical claps filled Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Lights from cell phones dotted the stands. And when stepped into the batter's box in the fifth inning on Tuesday night, the crowd began chanting his last name.
The kid called "Paquito" here in Puerto Rico did not disappoint his audience.
With two outs, Lindor lifted a full-count pitch from Twins starter Jake Odorizzi deep to right field and mayhem swept through the stadium during Cleveland's 6-1 triumph. The ball carried just over the wall for a two-run home run, inciting a deafening roar from the fans who have been waiting for this day. Major League Baseball was back in San Juan and one of the island's native sons delivered in heroic fashion.

"This is where I grew up," Lindor said. "These are my people. It's extremely special."
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When the ball left Lindor's bat, there was a collective gasp from the crowd, which seemed to hold its breath as it arched high over the outfield. Twins right fielder Robbie Grossman kept drifting, approaching the warning track, and with each step he took, the fans' cheers grew in anticipation. Grossman jumped, the ball disappeared over the wall and the audible eruption would have had a home in any classic October contest.
The home run gave the Tribe a 2-0 lead and the club never looked back. As Lindor tore around first, the Indians' energetic shortstop gave an emphatic salute to first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. -- one in a long line of famous Puerto Rico-born catchers. As Lindor rounded third base, he pumped his arms in the direction of his teammates and the crowd, urging them to increase the ballpark's decibel level.

"I'm in Puerto Rico in front of my family, in front of my friends, in front of this beautiful Puerto Rican crowd," Lindor said. "I'm just excited. I touched second base and looked in the dugout. Everybody's hands are up, so I put my hands up. I looked around the stadium, everybody's are up, so I keep putting my hands up and running."
As Lindor sprinted home, he searched the stands for his mother, Maria Serrano, and pointed in her direction.
"I'm sure she cried," he said with a smile. "She cries for everything."
Maria was on her feet, arms hoisted in the air just like her son.
She knew Lindor had been looking forward to this day, but this moment?

"To go and make a home run, no, not even," Maria told FS1 through a translator. "It's just really exciting. It's really emotional."
It was only one day earlier that Lindor, joined by his mother, traveled to Gurabo to visit Escuela Villa Marina, his old grammar school. They strolled the courtyard together, looking at the children's drawings of Lindor that covered the outer walls of each classroom. They heard the young boys and girls there join together in high-pitched chants of his name. They ran around on his old baseball field, getting covered in dirt just like he did so many years ago.
Those chants took on a much louder form inside Puerto Rico's most famous stadium.
After Lindor shook manager Terry Francona's hand and disappeared into a mob of teammates inside the dugout, the crowd was not satisfied. They wanted Lindor to soak in the moment once more. The chants of "Lindor! Lindor! Lindor!" escalated and the shortstop listened for a few seconds before emerging from the bench.

Lindor moved up to the dugout's top step, faced the crowd, removed his helmet and raised both arms skyward. The fans in attendance -- many of whom suffered great loss when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September -- shook Estadio Hiram Bithorn in response.
"That's a moment he'll never forget," Indians catcher said. "It's one thing coming out here and getting a couple hits, but he got the biggest hit of the day and gave us the lead. Getting a curtain call like that was pretty cool for him, I'm sure."
After the win, Lindor did multiple on-field interviews -- some in English and others in Spanish. He then made his way through the ballpark to the podium, where he had the crowd of reporters enjoying quotes in both languages. Over the past 48 hours, Lindor has been pulled in every direction. Appearances. Charity events. Interviews.

Lindor embraces being a role model and ambassador for the game -- both for Major League Baseball and for his native Puerto Rico -- but that can lead to an exhausting schedule. Lindor has handled every request and all the demands as smoothly as a ground ball in the hole.

"He's mature beyond his years," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's one of the better players, not just on our team, but probably in the league. Defensively, he's tremendous. Offensively, he can beat you in a lot of different ways. And he's a genuinely nice kid. That's a good package. We're thrilled that he's ours."
On Tuesday night, all of Puerto Rico was thrilled that Lindor is theirs, too.

His celebration around the bases said it all.
"What they call me here, Paquito," Lindor said, "I'm doing Paquito. That's me."