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Molinas Inherited Talent From Father

By Gabrielle Paese

October 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The Molina family has plenty of reasons to count its blessings this week. In addition to having two sons playing in the World Series as catchers for the Anaheim Angels, Gladys Matta and don Benjamin can celebrate Benjamin Sr.'s baseball accomplishments this Sunday when he is inducted in the Puerto Rico Superior Baseball League (Doble A) Hall of Fame in Lajas.

Benjamin Sr. played shortstop, second base and outfield for his native Vega Alta and Utuado during his 15-year career, winning titles with Utuado. In 1968 he was named league Rookie of the Year.

In addition to Bengie and Jose, dona Gladys and don Benjamin's third son, 20-year-old Yadier, also shows promise at catcher. Yadier plays Class A ball with the St. Louis Cardinals' Peoria Chiefs and winter ball with the Carolina Gigantes.

Dona Gladys said she always believed her sons would grow up to play major league baseball.

"When they were small and I was watching games on television, I could see them where they are today," said dona Gladys. "But it hasn't been easy. We always taught them that nothing is served to you on a silver platter in this world, you have to work for it. You have to believe in God and all things are possible."

Ben, 28, is a testament to the Molina family's perseverance and faith in God. He spent seven years in the minor leagues and his mother said he didn't move to catcher until the Angels signed him back in 1993.

"In Little League, Bengie always played either second base or he pitched," said dona Gladys. "When the scouts came to see him they saw his arm and they asked him to catch."

Leonard, Benitez remember days gone by

Boxing legend turned promoter Sugar Ray Leonard is in Puerto Rico this week to hype his Sunday ESPN fight card headlined by lightweight Alex Trujillo versus Mexico's Javier Jauregui.

Leonard paid a visit earlier this week to former world champion Wilfredo Benitez at the special care home where Benitez, who suffers from a degenerative brain damage called encefalopatia, resides. The two, accompanied by Benitez's mother, dona Clara, watched a video of their Nov. 30, 1979 fight in Las Vegas in which

Leonard, who was 25-0 with 16 KO defeated Benitez, who was 38-0-1 for Benitez's WBC welterweight title.

Leonard, 46, said he was happy to see that Benitez's health had improved from the last time the two met several years ago in New York. At that time Benitez had suffered a stroke.

"I told him I'm a promoter now and he said, ŒOh, so now you're making some money,'" said Leonard.

The former world champion said that as promoter he hopes to change the fate of boxers, many of whom do not retain their earnings.

"A lot of promoters take advantage of their boxers and the boxers have nothing to show for all their hard work at the end of their careers," said Leonard, who added that as promoter, he plans to help boxers learn how to invest their earnings.

Event producer Richie Miranda said this week that Roberto Duran is also scheduled to attend the Sunday fight card in Guaynabo. He also has plans to meet with Benitez.

Puerto Rico honors Pineiro with Zorrilla Award

Seattle Mariners pitcher Joel Pineiro was named this week to receive the Pedrin Zorrilla Award, an honor given by the Zorrilla family annually in Puerto Rico to an outstanding Puerto Rican player in the major leagues.

Pineiro in just his first full season in the major leagues, finished with a 14-7 record and a 3.24 ERA, ranking him eighth among American League pitchers.

Former Puerto Rico Sportswriters Association president Hector Aulet said Pineiro will receive the award prior to a winter league game in November.

"Play Ball!"

And speaking of the winter league, baseball season is almost upon us. The Puerto Rican winter league gets under way Oct. 30 with two new owners debuting in the six-team league.

Puerto Rico is the last of the four participating winter league countries to start its season with action already under way in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Two Dominican investors are trying their luck on Puerto Rico's shores. Television promoter Julio Hazim bought the Santurce Cangrejeros from Reinaldo "Poto" Paniagua in the off-season while former Dominican league owner Daniel Aquino invested in the Mayaguez Indios, purchasing the team from Ivan Mendez.

Colorado Rockies base coach Santos Alomar Sr., father to Rockies catcher, Sandy, and Mets second baseman, Roberto, opted not to take managerial job in Caguas last month and was replaced by former Chicago Cubs pitching coach Oscar Acosta.

Similarly, the Carolina Gigantes contracted St. Louis base coach Jose "Cheito" Oquendo after Carlos Lezcano declined a second season at the helm.

Jose "Cheo" Cruz will guide the Ponce Leones, and his son, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose "Cheito" Cruz is expected to join the team in December.

The defending champion Bayamon Cowboys, owned by Boston Red Sox infielder Carlos Baerga, retained Carmelo Martinez as their manager for the 2002-2003 season, in which Puerto Rico will play host to the Caribbean Series. The Caribbean Series is set for February in Carolina's Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium and it is not known yet how many of Puerto Rico's big leaguers will be convinced to forgo their winter's rest in favor of representing Puerto Rico.

The last time Puerto Rico hosted the Caribbean Series (1994-1995), stars such as Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar, Javier Lopez all turned out to play with the then-San Juan Senators, and Puerto Rico won the Series. Many of them were perhaps motivated by the 1994 MLB player's strike and opted to play winterball rather than sit idle.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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