Spring Break for college students normally consists of kids flying to exotic islands to spend a week with their friends having fun at the beach and normally ending in a solid sunburn. But if you are a college baseball player like myself, spring break consists of traveling to play the sport you love, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico to play in the inaugural Roberto Clemente Cup with my team amongst some of the best talent division 3 baseball has to offer.
Baseball is a way of life in Puerto Rico, and by just simply flying over the island you could see how important this sport was to this country. Almost everywhere you looked, there was a baseball field somewhere. With many baseball stars calling Puerto Rice home, the most well-known Puerto Rican baseball player is Roberto Clemente. The Pirates legend tallied 3,000 career hits before losing his life in a plane crash in 1972. Clemente is remembered as one of the best outfielders in baseball history, and his life is celebrated on the island decades after his death.
The games were held in professional stadiums across the country, with teams receiving access to the locker rooms. While the stadiums held thousands of fans, the seats were primarily filled with parents and relatives of the players, and a few of the locals. Personally, I have never played in a stadium of the magnitude in which we played at this past week, and it was an incredible experience to be able to play in the ballparks.
There were 10 teams total that participated in the inaugural Clemente Cup, with the Arcadia Knights winning the cup. They were presented with the trophy, and their picture will end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My team, the Susquehanna Crusaders, went 4-4 on the week, winning our last three games after starting off the week slow. Playing against some of the best teams in college baseball has made our team stronger, and will help us throughout the rest of our season.
After one of our last games, we had the honor to meet Vera Clemente, the wife of Roberto, as their sons Luis and Roberto Jr. To be in the presence of baseball royalty, and to speak to these people who had known Roberto Clemente was truly amazing. The Clemente’s organized the entire tournament, and hope to grow it one day so that more teams can participate in the week-long tournament in the beautiful Puerto Rico.
Ultimately, playing in the Clemente Cup in Puerto Rico was something I will cherish forever. The memories made on the field with my teammates are something that I will hold on to for the rest of my life. I am very thankful to have visited such a great country, and have played the game I love alongside people who share the same passion that I do. The Clemente Cup will continue next year during March, when spring break aligns up for teams. The Clemente family wishes to grow the tournament to the national level, in which the stadiums are filled with spectators.