Puerto Rico connections drive baseball stars to lead hurricane relief efforts

In the happiest moments of his life, Ivan Rodriguez is thinking of Puerto Rico. Even as the legendary catcher was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in July, Puerto Rico was with him — as it always is.

As he rode in the back of a massive Ford truck during the annual Saturday evening Parade of Legends, wife Patricia by his side, Rodriguez waved a Puerto Rico flag in his right hand. All along the parade route, hundreds of brightly colored Puerto Rico flags waved back at him.

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During the induction ceremony, the man known affectionately as “Pudge” spoke of his homeland often.

“The little kid from Puerto Rico with a big dream,” he called himself. At one point, he spoke directly to friends and family in Puerto Rico, in Spanish.

Know that Pudge’s heart is breaking today.

Hurricane Maria — a Category 5 storm that demolished everything in its path and spared nothing — devastated his island last week. And Hurricane Maria rolled through barely a week after Hurricane Irma delivered a direct blow, too.

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The truth is, we’re just now starting to get an accurate picture of the extent of the devastation, and that picture is soul-crushing. Read through this Twitter thread.

Rodriguez has helped lead donation efforts — his drive to help collect items such as generators, construction lumber, tents and bottled water, to name a few items, runs through Friday in Irving, Texas.

And he isn’t the only player from Puerto Rico who’s responded, of course. Astros DH Carlos Beltran pledged $1 million toward recovery efforts, and he’s raising money through his foundation, too.

"It's something that needed to be done," Beltran said, as reported by the Associated Press. "I think the only way that I can motivate people to contribute and help my country is by me acting the way I act. Right now our country is suffering from a devastating hurricane ... I just want to help as much as I can."

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina set up a GoFundMe page. Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada announced a fund-raising campaign. Dodgers utility man Enrique Hernandez has set up a YouCaring page to raise money.

Puerto Rico’s connection with baseball runs deep. Some of the game’s brightest stars — and best people — were born in Puerto Rico, a roster that starts with Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. Current stars Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javy Baez are from Puerto Rico, too.

If you want to help, please click on any of the links above.

Or you can donate through the Salvation Army, United for Puerto Rico (organized by Beatriz Rosselló, the first lady of Puerto Rico), Unidos (set up by The Hispanic Foundation) or Global Giving, to name just a few.