There are a lot of wonderful Javier Báez memories from his time as a Cub at Wrigley Field. The man is electric and plays baseball accordingly. We could spend an afternoon remembering his incredible home runs, unbelievable plays and the times he manufactured runs with his off the charts baseball IQ and what can only be described as Jedi Mind Tricks.
However, Javy is also electric off the field. I still own the Puerto Rico Fuerte shirt I bought through Joe Maddon’s shirt company Korked to support relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. That September the Cubs ran a special 50-50 Raffle with some of the proceeds earmarked for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Javy was one of a handful of Cubs from Puerto Rico who used his considerable platform to bring attention and resources to fundraising for relief efforts:
Almost exactly five years later another hurricane has hit the island. Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico on Monday and left over three million people without power and water. The storm was particularly devastating because, as the AP reported today, Puerto Rico still has not fully recovered from the damage wrought in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria:
Hurricane Fiona unleashed more rain on Puerto Rico on Monday, a day after the storm knocked out power and water to most of the island, and National Guard troops rescued hundreds of people who got stranded.
The governor warned that it could take days to get the lights back on.
The blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered by blue tarps.
Javy cannot stop hurricanes, but he is stepping up again for his home. He posted this on his Instagram last night:
For those who do not speak Spanish, TMZ has you covered:
“If your community is affected and you’re in need of hot meal, you can call 787-665-2323 (Joshua) or stop by @taquizapr and we will make all the arrangements. Blessings to all of you!”
Baez added, “I know we’re going through something very difficult. I’m with you.”
Taquiza is a restaurant venture that Javy has embarked on with his brother-in-law, Blue Jays pitcher José Berríos. Cubs Insider had a lovely piece on this venture and the spirit behind it last year. I was specifically interested in their desire to invest in Puerto Rico’s communities directly as opposed to stocks and bonds:
Báez and Berríos told Zapata that they preferred to invest their money in Puerto Rico “rather than being in bonds and stock markets” and that they wanted their investment to “bear fruit for us” while also benefitting the people (all translations from Spanish quotes mine).
Every September baseball feels critically important. There are playoff races, MVP conversations, and future Hall of Fame players chasing down milestones in the twilight of their career.
But all of these very important baseball stories pale in comparison to the safety and security of human beings. For me, El Mago’s greatest act will always be the compassion and generosity he shows to the people of Puerto Rico.