The league also reduced the players’ maximum stipend — essentially gas and extra spending money — to $100 from about $300 for a weekend. Some players with professional experience, like Cayey’s Fernando Cabrera, 36, the top starting pitcher in the league who once pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, get tips from fans on the side for winning.
“It’ll be a tougher season: doubleheaders, under the sun, the lower pay, the traveling,” said Richard González, 29, the Toritos second baseman. “But at the end of the day, we’re doing what we love to do, which is to play baseball and for the people of Cayey.”
The extra cash would have helped González, who started his own baseball equipment business called Dux Sports after playing college baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University. When he wasn’t drafted by a major league team, he returned to Puerto Rico and is in his eighth season playing in the Doble A.
After Hurricane Maria hit, González lost power in his home in Caguas, a city 30 minutes south of San Juan, for three months. He didn’t have a generator, cellphone service was dead, and orders for his baseball equipment went unfilled, so he spent two months with family and his business partner in Tampa. He returned in December.
“If you play this league for the money, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “You play because of your love and passion for baseball.”
The Toritos’ manager, Edgardo Lebrón, 35, a former Minnesota Twins minor leaguer who works at a baseball academy, said his home in Las Piedras, an hour from Cayey, sustained $70,000 worth of damage and the electricity still has not returned. He has spent thousands on gasoline to feed a generator. As Lebrón stopped his front door from being blown away by the hurricane winds, he said his 10-year-old son turned to him, crying, and said, “Dad, let’s pray; we’re going to die.”