Clemente’s Number, Legacy Prominent As Criollos de Caguas Prepare For Caribbean Series

Photo: Getty Images

By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network

On Jan. 21, the Criollos de Caguas defeated the Gigantes de Carolina 4-1 in game eight of the LBPRC championship series, securing an opportunity to represent Puerto Rico at the 2024 Caribbean Series in Miami, Florida.

The Criollos won the best-of-nine series five games to three and captured the organization’s 21st title in Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente history.  

“Saying that I am proud to belong to the Criollos of Caguas falls short of demonstrating the level of excitement, joy, and pride that I feel right now,” Criollos de Caguas owner Raul Rodriguez told World Baseball Network. “Every year, we start our season with a clear goal: to play good baseball, offer good entertainment to the fans, and win the winter baseball championship in Puerto Rico. Being able to be a part of a franchise for more than 10 years, in addition to being a great source of pride, is also a responsibility I take very seriously.”  

The Criollos de Caguas have less than a week before their first game in the Caribbean Series at loanDepot Park in Miami. They will face Nicaragua in the tournament’s opening game at 10:30 a.m. ET on Feb. 1.  

Coincidentally, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes noted on his X account that the Criollos won the franchise’s 21st title on Jan. 21 in the league named after Puerto Rican baseball legend Roberto Clemente. What was on the back of Clemente’s jersey? Number 21.  

Clemente played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1955-72 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was born in Puerto Rico. He died in a plane crash at age 38 in 1972, delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His legacy and impact will surely be felt during the Caribbean Series matchup between Puerto Rico and Nicaragua on Feb. 1.  

“Roberto Clemente is one of the most remembered and admired athletes Puerto Rico has had, if not the most,” Rodriguez told World Baseball Network. “Clemente broke barriers and paved the way for many baseball players to achieve their goal of playing in Major League Baseball. His humanitarian gesture and sense of helping this country will always remain present in the history and people of Nicaragua.”  

“More than a sports rivalry in the first game of the Caribbean Series next week, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua are two countries that will play good baseball and honor the one that will unite us forever, Roberto Clemente,” Rodriguez said.  

First-year Criollos de Caguas manager Yadier Molina was ejected in the third inning of game eight of the LBPRC championship series for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. Even so, he stands alongside Clemente as one of the best Puerto Rican professional baseball players ever. 

Now in the dugout, the former St. Louis Cardinals catcher helped Puerto Rico reach the 2023 World Baseball Classic quarter-finals and won a championship with the Criollos de Caguas in his first season as manager.  

Molina played in two Caribbean Series in 2007 and 2021, but 2024 will be the first time he will represent Puerto Rico as manager in the tournament.  

The Criollos de Caguas won their last Caribbean Series championship in 2018, defeating the Aguilas Cibaeñas from Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana 9-4 in the title game. They went 2-2 in the preliminary round but knocked off the Caribes de Anzoátegui of Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional 6-5 in the semi-finals.  

Representing Puerto Rico, the Criollos de Caguas will face opponents from Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacifico, Beisbol Profesional de Panama, Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana, Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional, Liga de Beisbol Profesional Nacional, and Kampionato Béisbol Profeshonal Korsou in this year’s edition of the Caribbean Series.  

The first day of the 2024 Caribbean Series is Thursday, Feb. 1, and the third-place and championship games will occur on Friday, Feb. 9. All 25 games of the tournament will be played at loanDepotPark in Miami, Florida. loanDepotPark is the home stadium of the Miami Marlins.  

Puerto Rico 2024 Caribbean Series Schedule  
All Times Eastern Standard Time  

Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024  
10:30 a.m. – Nicaragua vs. Panama  

Friday, Feb. 2, 2024  
8:30 p.m. – Puerto Rico vs. Mexico  

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024  
8:30 p.m. – Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico  

Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024  
3:30 p.m. – Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela  

Monday, Feb. 5, 2024  
8:30 p.m. – Puerto Rico vs. Panama  

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024  
10:30 a.m. – Curacao vs. Puerto Rico  

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 
3 p.m. – Semifinal 1 
8 p.m. – Semifinal 2 

Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 
3 p.m. – Third-place Game 
8 p.m. – Championship Game 

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