On Thursday, the Pirates' work in Puerto Rico began.After collecting hurricane relief supplies outside PNC Park on Monday and Tuesday and putting everything in place on Wednesday, a small group of representatives from the Pirates boarded a FedEx cargo plane in Pittsburgh on Thursday and departed for Puerto Rico, which
On Thursday, the Pirates' work in Puerto Rico began.
After collecting hurricane relief supplies outside PNC Park on Monday and Tuesday and putting everything in place on Wednesday, a small group of representatives from the Pirates boarded a FedEx cargo plane in Pittsburgh on Thursday and departed for Puerto Rico, which was recently impacted by Hurricane Maria.
The group included Pirates owner and Pirates Charities chairman Bob Nutting, team president Frank Coonelly, third-base coach Joey Cora, catcher Francisco Cervelli, infielder Sean Rodriguez, special assistant to the GM Mike Gonzalez, former Pirates Omar Moreno and John Candelaria and FedEx senior vice president Patrick Fitzgerald.
"This has been an amazing time for the Pirates as we've decided to try to reach out, with the legacy of Roberto Clemente, to have an impact after the terrible tragedy and devastation in Puerto Rico," Nutting said. "For us to be able to begin with that idea, then to see the project grow, was amazing. The city of Pittsburgh turned out in a way that no one could have imagined … a community that pulled together in a way I'm not sure I've ever seen."
The Pirates landed at the San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, where they were met by Ricardo Rossello (the governor of Puerto Rico), Luis Clemente (son of Pirates legend and humanitarian icon Roberto Clemente) and the owner of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League's Criollos de Cagua.
The Pirates arrived with more than 460,000 pounds of supplies in tow. Nutting said about 395,000 pounds of that haul came from the contributions of Pittsburgh fans who donated to the Bucs' relief drive on Mazeroski Way from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.
The donations greatly surpassed the Pirates' expectations, as they filled a second MD-11 cargo plane from FedEx. According to Fitzgerald, FedEx has already flown 43 relief missions into Puerto Rico to deliver 4.4 million pounds of supplies.
"We're very proud to be a part of this," Fitzgerald said. "It's very meaningful, and we're very proud to be able to be part of the extension of the legacy of Roberto Clemente."
Gonzalez and Cora both have family in Puerto Rico. The Pirates set out to distribute the supplies they delivered in each man's hometown: Caguas (Cora) and Cayey (Gonzalez). The Pirates also brought more than $225,000 in donations to help the island recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.
During their trip, the Pirates intend to provide Vera Clemente, Roberto's widow, with relief supplies as well.
"We definitely wanted to bless the Clemente family, especially Vera Clemente," Gonzalez said before boarding. "She's battling like every Puerto Rican citizen on the island; losing electricity, no power, no light, no water. She communicated her needs, and we wanted to bless her. Manny Sanguillen [a former Pirate and friend of Clemente] was able to contribute, filling up a pallet with generators and a whole bunch of stuff, to gift her with some things that will help her with this battle in Puerto Rico and this crisis."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.