As the plane drifted towards our coveted destination, the sight of the island came into view coupled with sunny skies and crystal clear water. After about a three hour flight, we were circling the island of Puerto Rico around 10 in the morning. We, Gilbert, Bryan and I, were touching down to begin our exciting journey of playing baseball in the Puerto Rico Instructional Baseball League (PRIBL).
We got picked up at the Aguadilla Airport by Gilbert’s uncle, Tio Carlito, and driven to Carlito’s hometown of Arecibo. To our good fortune, we had arrived to the island on Three Kings Day, a celebration exclusive to Puerto Rico and the equivalent of Christmas in the states. First, we stopped at a restaurant and ate el cerdo (pork). After eating, we toured the surrounding areas of Arecibo and visited the currently abandoned home that Gilbert’s grandfather built completely from the ground up. As you can imagine, we visited a multitude of loved ones connected to Gilbert and his family. Everyone that I met and came in contact with showed an abundance of hospitality and generosity.
One of the first aspects of Puerto Rico that became readily apparent to me was the country’s love of baseball. Whether it was t-shirts, posters, billboards or talk on the radio, baseball was everywhere that I turned. At the first restaurant we ate, one of the cooks was wearing a Puerto Rico baseball shirt, and I knew that we were in the right place. I was most surprised with the different baseball fields that I saw as we drove around the quant city of Arecibo. Out of the five or so fields that we rode by, every single park had high-rise bleachers built from each dugout and lining the first and third baselines. Some fields were even equipped with L-screens and available for use by the community. It was obvious that this island took baseball very seriously.
By Billy Felo