News 8 Exclusive: Connecticut pitching in for teens from Puerto Rico

News 8 Exclusive

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Instead of worrying about their communities damaged by Hurricane Maria or protests filling their streets calling for their governor to step down, all some special teenagers from Puerto Rico had to worry about today was stepping up to the plate. News 8 got exclusive access with The Cyclones — a 16 and under baseball team from Ponce, Puerto Rico now in the Greater Waterbury area to compete in the Mickey Mantle World Series.

“It is a chance to release our minds from all of that and just play baseball,” said the Cyclones’ manager, Ismael Rivera.

“Seeing them here is actually a miracle,” said Victor Cuevas, a member of the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury who helped host the team and send emergency supplies to some of the players’ communities when Hurricane Maria hit. “These are miracle babies. A lot of their friends and families have passed away in the tragedy of Hurricane Maria.”

“We were heavily-involved and continue to be,” said Waterbury state rep. Geraldo Reyes, who was a member of the Waterbury group that’s traveled to Puerto Rico to help out.

The manager of The Cyclones says his team is very grateful for Connecticut’s spirit of kindness. Another example of that kindness came from the folks at the Baseball Association of Wolcott. The BAW allowed the Cyclones to practice on their fields before the tournament gets underway.

“It feels great,” Chris McLean said. “We have a brotherhood through the game.”

The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury also collected donations from people in Connecticut to help deliver emergency supplies for hurricane relief and they helped to pay some of the costs for the team to travel and play here. The Cyclone’s manager says that big gesture lifts the spirits of his players and they, in turn, want to win the Mickey Mantle championship even more. Because, he says, it would do so much to lift the spirits of people back home.

“That has been super grateful,” Rivera said. “People notice and we know Waterbury has helped us after the hurricane and is still helping us.”

“They’re here doing this to play baseball and try to win the championship in order to demonstrate that Puerto Rico, even though we’ve been knocked down, we’re standing up and fighting for what we believe in.”

That includes calling for their governor’s ouster for his offensive comments towards people, including Hurricane Maria victims and allegations that he misused hurricane relief funds. The team was part of one of those large protests in Puerto Rico right before their trip to Connecticut.

“It hurt us, the way the government has been doing things but hopefully we could change that,” Rivera said. “We need things and when we have our government not doing the right thing then that’s the reason why we have to fight.”

The team will be fighting for the 2019 title all week long. For tournament information, including the schedule, participating teams, locations, and more, head to mickeymantlews.com

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