CAGUAS, Puerto Rico – Red Sox manager Alex Cora arrived in his native Puerto Rico on Saturday as fans gathered under the rain to celebrate the first man from the island to lead a team to a World Series championship.
Cora was accompanied by pitchers David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez and catcher Christian Vazquez, among others including Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. The Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 28 to win their fourth championship in 15 years.
The group joined a caravan headed to Cora's hometown of Caguas where fans dressed in red and blue clutched umbrellas as they talked about his arrival.
"He put us on the map," said 26-year-old Miguel Martinez, who was slow dancing to salsa with his girlfriend as they waited for Cora. "My eyes filled with tears when he won the championship because this is something historic."
Some fans had driven more than an hour to receive the manager and praised how he helped Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit more than a year ago amid a 12-year recession.
When 43-year-old Cora negotiated his contract last October, he asked his team to help with relief efforts, and they eagerly pitched in.
"Despite everything that has happened, we have a bit of happiness on the side," said Red Sox fan Arleen Cruz, who drove to Caguas with her husband from the southern town of Humacao to receive the players.
The two have been Red Sox fans since 1972.
"Puerto Rico's name couldn't be held up higher," said Cruz's husband, Ramon Reyes, who was clad in a Red Sox hat, T-shirt and towel slung over his shoulder.
They mingled with other fans stopping to buy food, beer and merchandise from roadside vendors as the smell of fried empanadillas and other local specialties wafted through the air.
Ronald Lopez-Cepero and his wife, both from Caguas, had already bought T-shirts last week that read "PROUD for Puerto Rico." He recalled how he had about a dozen baseball cards featuring Cora and his older brother, Joey, a former big-league infielder.
"He's a tremendous person," said the lifelong fan. "He's very humble and helpful."
Cora, who spent 14 years in the majors and batted .243 as an infielder with six teams, steered the Red Sox to a team-record 108 wins in the regular season before Boston topped the 100-win Yankees and Astros in the playoffs.
The Boston Red Sox say they haven't decided whether they will visit the White House if invited by President Donald Trump.