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Puerto Ricans Take Center Stage In Post-Season Play

By Gabrielle Paese

October 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Not internal bickering within the Puerto Rico basketball federation and its Superior League, nor the ongoing drama of upcoming P.R. Olympic Committee elections could be as interesting as the AL and NL championship series. In the races for the pennants thus far, new heroes have emerged in unlikely places: witness Ruben Sierra’s key three-run homer last Saturday night that spelled doom for the Twins and sent the Yankees into the ALCS.

Sierra isn’t the only Puerto Rican shaking up his team’s lineup. Take, for example, Carlos Beltran’s stunning heroics with the Houston Astros, particularly the two home runs and five runs he knocked in to complete Houston’s sweep of Atlanta on Monday night.

There are other Puerto Ricans to watch as the drama of these two series unfold – the pinstriped Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, who have done this drill so many times. They are joined by Javier Vazquez, who is at his first playoffs with the Yankees. Vazquez had spent his entire major league career previously with the Montreal Expos.

In addition to Beltran’s hot bat in the NLCS, those who are fans of the game but not any particular team will enjoy watching reliever Kiko Calero try to hold the game for St. Louis, which also has young Yadier Molina as a catcher in the lineup making his post-season debut. Molina is the younger brother of Angels catchers Jose and Bengie Molina.

Basketball’s off-season squabble hard to decipher

With this kind of excitement on TV nightly this week, sports fans in Puerto Rico will be hard-pressed to give their full attention to the basketball federation and its internal squabbling with its pro league. Even if the pennant races weren’t in full swing, the basketball federation’s power struggles would be hard to follow, mostly because a lot of the discussion is so esoteric it is only of interest to the league’s franchise holders and the federation officials.

What it boils down to is this: The Puerto Rico Basketball Federation is poised to once again assume control of its Superior Basketball League (SBL) and the national teams. Whereas for the past two years, the SBL ran its own league and handled national team matters, the federation recently decided that it was unfairly cut out of the profit-sharing plan and wants back in. The SBL is not really in a position to argue, since the federation is the sanctioning body, but even the bigger sanctioning body (in this case, FIBA) would have to admit all the arguing back and forth is not good for basketball, which should be basking in the limelight of one of its best Olympic performances in history.

Olympic Committee elections likely to be a one-man show

Basketball notwithstanding, all is quiet on the Puerto Rico sports federations front. Maybe too quiet. You might not be able to call it consensus but nor could you call it dissent. The Puerto Rico Olympic Committee is poised to hold elections at the end of this month with the lone candidate for the presidency being incumbent Hector Cardona. Cardona has been at the helm since 1992 and is seeking a third term. Angelo Medina had previously expressed interest in challenging Cardona, but Cardona squelched any aspirations the sports and entertainment promoter might have had. It was Cardona himself, and his rubber-stamp board of directors, who needed to give Medina its approval to head up the table tennis federation and thus qualify as a presidential aspirant. Medina would have five days to campaign, not nearly enough time.

Might have been just as well, because Medina was busy this week, reportedly settling out of course with performer Ricky Martin. But that didn’t preclude Medina from taking on San Juan city mayor Jorge Santini in a new chapter of their ongoing battle for control of Roberto Clemente Coliseum. This week, Medina threatened to move his SBL Santurce Cangrejeros either to the new Puerto Rico Coliseum or Guaynabo should Santini not cooperate in sorting out available playing dates for the 2005 season. Hmm… A turf war 21 days before the general elections? Medina’s move smacks of politics. And even though Santini hasn’t shown himself to be a particularly pro-sports administration (he drove the Winter League’s Santurce Cangrejeros to Manati in 2004), this time you’ve got to wonder what Medina’s motives are.

Puerto Rican trio gets ready for NBA season

It’s hard to get excited about the NBA in the middle of major league baseball’s biggest moment, but three Puerto Rican basketball players are poised for grand seasons. One of them is Carlos Arroyo, who stole hearts this summer in Puerto Rico’s upset victory over the United States at the Athens Games. Arroyo is coming into his own as Utah Jazz’s rising point guard and will have an extra dose of confidence following his Olympic performance.

The Olympics are also likely to benefit Milwaukee Bucks 7-1 center Danny Santiago, who is looking for a breakthrough season. Meanwhile, talented 7-8 teen Peter John Ramos will be making his debut with the Washington Wizards. He’s likely to spend most of the season on the bench, but he’ll get plenty of playing time in future seasons and the experience will help him next summer in national team play.

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was 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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