Baseball provided outlet for hurricane-damaged city

Trees uprooted, cars floating, homes destroyed, baseball fields turned into ponds.

Instead of facing 65 mph fastballs, Guayama, Puerto Rico, was facing 155 mph, roof-lifting winds and Category 5 hurricanes for the first time since 1932. In the fall of 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through the Caribbean, thrashing the Guayama community which is located few miles inland on the Southern coast of Puerto Rico. Every day life was far from normal, but baseball provided an outlet.

Seeing their homes ripped apart and their valuables floating in dirty water, is nothing anyone should see, let alone an 11- or 12-year-old. But that was Puerto Rico’s reality.

“It was a tough experience for them. They never seen anything in their lives like that with the disaster we had there,” Puerto Rico manger Carlos Texidor said through an interrupter. “God gave them the opportunity to play and with that opportunity they were able to get here to Williamsport.”

Baseball was put on hold as families tried to rebuild their lives, but as soon as it was possible, Texidor wanted to get his players back on the field. It wasn’t just to make them better ballplayers, but to allow them to have a sense of normalcy in a difficult and tumultuous time.

“Our first goal in Puerto Rico was to give the kids some recreation, some distraction for what we were living in down there. It was tough to build a team, having no fields where we could practice,” Texidor said. “But that time we didn’t have lights on the field either, also with the game we have here, I’m convinced that my work was good.

“The process was difficult. It was a hard process to deal with that. The coaches and I told the kids that the first goal was to bring some recreation to the kids. Not to think about what happened in their houses or in their lives. It was hard to practice because we had to share the fields with other teams just so all the teams could play. It was very hard.”

Irma first ripped through the Caribbean region and before the area had a chance to recover or the water could recede, Maria came barreling through, meaning two Category 5 hurricanes came through the islands within two weeks.

As 2018 came through, many were still without power. Baseball provided comfort, and getting to Williamsport provided hope. Despite its nine-inning loss to Asia-Pacific in the opening game of the World Series on Thursday, Radames Lopez Little League is lifting the spirits of the entire Caribbean.

“The dedication that they have in the practices and in the games, they also have the desire to be here at the Little League World Series,” Texidor said. “That’s a dream for every kid and every manager. Having a great game like we just had is very special for us.”