Alex Cora, The Pride Of Puerto Rico
NOEL KING, HOST:
Red Sox manager Alex Cora is known for treating his team members like family, but it's taken this past weekend's World Series victory for him to become a household name. The 43-year-old is a native of Puerto Rico, where he's being celebrated just as much as he is in Boston. Steve Inskeep spoke to The Boston Globe's editorial writer Marcela Garcia about the island's new hero.
MARCELA GARCIA: I was reading some of the stuff that's been reported in his hometown. People are already asking for statues being erected on his behalf because people love him over there. He's very connected to his homeland. He goes there all the time.
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: There's a story about a condition he had added to his contract with the Red Sox.
INSKEEP: Is this true?
GARCIA: Yes. So he was hired in October, early November. And I called him, I talked to him, and he very casually dropped it in in the conversation. You know, the only thing I asked them is, can I use the Red Sox plane to bring supplies and things that I have collected for Puerto Rico? You know, obviously, in the wake of Hurricane Maria...
INSKEEP: Which had happened just a month or two before.
GARCIA: Exactly. And so, of course, the Red Sox were, like, sure. You know, they - there was nothing else, and, you know, no other big condition that he had. This was it. And I remember being so struck by how humble he was and how unassuming and - but, at the same time, not afraid to use his position to elevate the issues he cared about. He has followed that pattern all throughout this season, often wearing T-shirts that said Puerto Rico pride or proud for Puerto Rico.
INSKEEP: It was interesting to watch his work in the World Series. That was a tough job. They were dominant. There was an 18-inning game that they lost. You burn up all your pitchers, you exhaust all your players. You've still got to figure out a way to win the game the next night - which, in fact, they did. It was an impressive performance by their manager.
GARCIA: He was. And, all throughout the year, he had been questioned, or he had been challenged, I guess, in his wisdom or his style of management. He's been called Cora-lytics - you know, a play on his last name and analytics - because he's very data-driven. He combines that with a very, very personal approach and an emphasis on communicating with the players. And, you know, one to one, he's not big on, like, big speeches or, you know, big leadership gestures. But he goes to each of the players, and he has a report to each - with each one of them. And he talks to them and he - you know, they trust him. And so that combination has been very effective.
INSKEEP: So I want to note that the Boston Red Sox were, if I'm not mistaken, the last major league baseball team to integrate. And they represent a city where there sometimes have been racial and ethnic divisions. What has it meant for Boston to have a Latino manager at the head of this team and then to have that team win the World Series?
GARCIA: The Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate. And Boston as a city has been grappling with all these issues for a long time. So, in that context, obviously it was huge that Alex Cora became the first Latino manager. I mean, when you look at it in the context of the history of the team, the other dimension here is that growth in Boston has been driven by a wave of Latino immigrants. So it's meant a lot. He obviously has brought Spanish to the clubhouse. He communicates in Spanish with some of his players. So I would say that the impact has been amazing, and he's an incredible symbol, I think, of where we are as a city right now.
INSKEEP: Marcela Garcia of The Boston Globe.
Thanks so much.
GARCIA: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.