CLEVELAND -- Despite Hurricane Maria ravaging much of Puerto Rico in the fall, the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins have renewed their commitment to play their scheduled two-game series in April in San Juan as planned.
Rivals within the American League Central Division, the Indians and Twins joined San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz at a news conference in Puerto Rico to confirm they will play the two-game series at venerable Hiram Bithorn Stadium April 17-18.
“Oh, man, I can’t wait,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez told MLB Network’s Hot Stove Wednesday. “I’m already thinking about it. I know that Spring Training’s coming up, but I think it will be awesome to play in front of Puerto Rico, to play in front of our families, and I think we’re very excited to play here.”
PHOTOS: Roberto Perez 'can't wait' for Cleveland Indians to play Minnesota Twins in Puerto Rico
The games, which are considered home contests for the Twins, will be the first regular-season series in Puerto Rico since the New York Mets and Miami Marlins held a three-game set at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in June of 2010.
Along with the 2010 series, Major League Baseball has made three other appearances at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays opened the 2001 season in Puerto Rico, and then, in both 2003 and 2004, the Montreal Expos played several regular-season games in San Juan.
In addition to MLB games, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, capacity 18,264, played host to the World Baseball Classic three times (2006, 2009, 2013), as well as international soccer games and concerts from world-renown acts such as Santana, Bon Jovi, Sting, The Beach Boys, Metallica and Billy Joel.
Puerto Rico has a proud heritage in the game of baseball, and especially within the Indians’ organization.
Indians Hall of Fame members Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga, All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, former infielder Joey Cora, outfielders Wil Cordero, Juan Gonzalez, Ricky Ledee and Candy Maldonado, pitchers Jose Santiago and Fernando Cabrera and utility man Von Hayes were natives of Puerto Rico.
Currently, the Indians have three natives of Puerto Rico on the roster, Perez, infielder Willi Castro and two-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
To Perez, Major League Baseball’s commitment to playing in Puerto Rico represents a resurgence in baseball in the island country.
“I’m very proud, especially where we come from,” said Perez, a native of Mayaguez. “It was a struggle back in the day, so to be able to play in front of the kids and the fans -- they cannot pay ticket prices to come see us play in the United States -- it makes us proud and happy to play in front of them.
“Hopefully, we give the fans and people of Puerto Rico a good game, and hopefully, they can enjoy it.”