As the Puerto Rican Winter League began its abbreviated schedule Friday, preparations continued for Major League Baseball's return to the island.
This year's regular-season series between the Twins and Indians will be played as scheduled, despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last fall. One source told MLB.com that ticket information for the games, set for April 17 and 18 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, could be announced formally as early as next week.
Although the ballpark sustained damage when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, MLB officials are confident that Hiram Bithorn Stadium will return to its normal functionality in advance of the series.
MLB and the MLB Players Association are working on details of community outreach events surrounding the series, which will bring MLB regular-season games to Puerto Rico for the first time since 2010. Those efforts will be aided by notable Puerto Rican-born players on both rosters: All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and catcher Roberto Perez for the Indians, and right-hander Jose Berrios, outfielder Eddie Rosario and first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas for the Twins.
Meanwhile, numerous MLB-affiliated players will participate in this winter's edition of la Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, as it is known on the island. Teams from Caguas, Carolina, Mayaguez and Santurce are scheduled to play 18 games -- many of which will occur in the afternoon to reduce the need for lighting at a time when many Puerto Ricans still are living without electricity in their homes.
The April series in San Juan marks the beginning of an ambitious schedule of international games for MLB and the MLBPA in the coming years. The Dodgers and Padres will visit Monterrey, Mexico, for a three-game series May 4-6. And while plans beyond this year remain unconfirmed, the 2019 MLB schedule could include regular-season series in Japan, Mexico and London.