Indians-Twins play on, even after blackout hits San Juan

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The lights were on for Cleveland and Minnesota on Wednesday night, while much of the rest of Puerto Rico was without electricity after yet another blow to efforts across the island to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

Aided by generators and with many buildings around the ballpark in the dark, the finale of the two-game series between the Indians and Twins went off as planned at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. A blackout hit the island on Wednesday morning, closing schools and businesses, snarling traffic and seeming to add to the frustration level of those still dealing with issues that the catastrophic storm caused last September.

But inside the ballpark, speakers blared, lamps shined and beer flowed.

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“Today was a bad day for Puerto Rico,” said Jesus Solomon, a contractor who was at the game with his two sons. “However, we must remember, we have been through much worse.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said backup systems were tested and declared ready shortly after the blackout struck.

Plans were in place well ahead of time for things like the extra generators, at MLB’s request, Cruz said. “We are always aware that something like this can happen,” she said.

There have been several outages in the seven months since Maria, but nothing that went island-wide like this blackout. Initial estimates suggested it would take 24 to 48 hours for power to be fully restored, but a small number of municipalities on the island had service resume by Wednesday evening.

“The scope of the outage gets your attention,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The Twins and Indians have taken part in numerous events since arriving in Puerto Rico on Sunday to aid the island’s recovery, including goodwill missions, helping to rebuild a shelter for abused and displaced women and children, replanting native trees and visiting hospitals.

A truck and van loaded with building supplies were donated, the Indians’ players and wives donated cash and the Major League Baseball Players Trust announced a $200,000 grant on Wednesday to assist Feeding America and its efforts at four food banks in areas still struggling after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Wednesday was a reminder of how fragile some things still are in Puerto Rico.

“Anytime something like what we’re seeing today occurs, people that help each other is what’s going to get you through it,” Molitor said. “I’ve heard it’s going to be 24 to 36 hours, which is a long time for some people who already are suffering. So I’m just praying that things get back on track quickly.”

There were four Puerto Ricans in the lineups for the finale of MLB’s first regular-season series on the island since 2010. Minnesota had outfielder Eddie Rosario and starting pitcher Jose Berrios, while Cleveland had Francisco Lindor — who hit a two-run home run in the Indians’ 6-1 series-opening win Tuesday night — and catcher Roberto Perez.

Indians manager Terry Francona said his team spent the day working under the assumption that the game was on and that things would work out.

But he also offered perspective, noting that his team was staying in an upscale hotel where the lights and air conditioning worked.

Francona knows that if he’d ventured into the countryside a bit, he would have seen a much different side of the after-Maria story.

“I don’t think we’re really going to know the true, what these people have endured,” Francona said. “Seems a little silly to complain about not getting electricity for an hour in the clubhouse when people have been living like that for a year.”