An Indians-Cubs World Series is more than a meeting of two franchises in the midst of long title droughts -- it's also the first meeting in the Fall Classic of three ballplayers born in Puerto Rico, the Cubs' Javier Baez and the Indians' Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez. Lindor and Baez are two of the brightest young players in the game -- Lindor was an All Star this year, and Baez has been the postseason's breakout star -- and both credit Perez as a role model (at 27, he's the elder statesman; Baez is 23 and Lindor is 22). All three players talked about what it means to represent Puerto Rico in the World Series and how they've enjoyed watching the others play.
Baez: "It's very exciting and great for our Puerto Rico (for us to be seeing success). The growth in certain sports has really diminished in Puerto Rico, especially baseball and basketball, and we want to inspire more young people to continue moving forward and to fight for their dreams. What better example than what Lindor and I have done to get here -- and please don't leave Bebo (Perez) out, because he is also making Puerto Rico proud."
Lindor: "For the people in Puerto Rico, they're very excited. They're excited, and they should be. We're doing it for them, so they should be excited. I hope they are, because every time we do something, we're thinking about it. We're thinking about our plan for the World Baseball Classic, and it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it."
Lindor: "With all the things that have happened to Javy Baez the last year and a half, this is super exciting. I'm so happy for him, for his family. Javy texted me the next morning, after he got the MVP (in the National League Championship Series), and said, 'Mi amor, is this a dream?' And I texted him back saying 'I think so, and I haven't woken up yet.' It is a dream come true for my family and for his family. He is a wonderful person, and I was so happy when he won the MVP."
Perez: "They deserve all the attention they get because of their talent and the potential they have to be super stars. I am just really happy for both of them, for their much deserved success. I don't care about being recognized or talked about. That doesn't faze me. It motivates me to quietly just keep working harder."
Lindor: "We both love to have fun; we both play hard and do whatever it takes to win. We also do things rooted in pride. The pride we have in our families and in our homeland. I think the main difference between us is that Javier looks a lot more intimidating, he commands more attention, and I think that he is an incredible hitter. I have to learn to hit like him. He is incredible -- but please don't tell him I said that."
Baez: "Lindor and I played against each other in high school, and in the little kid version of the World Series, and now we are getting the chance to play against each other here. It's so big for us and for the island. There are no words to describe it."
Perez: "Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the spark plugs of our team. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be in the position we are in today."
Lindor: "Perez has been so good calling games for us this season. He really knows his pitchers. He has been a calming presence behind the plate. He has been great controlling the running game. He keeps our pitching staff calm and focused. That's his personality -- he doesn't get too up or too down."
Baez: "This is something we have been waiting for for a long time; we are very proud to be a part of it. We have been dedicated to growing the sport and finally we are reaping the benefits of all that hard work. It's not surprising because Puerto Rico is an island that has given baseball a lot of great players, and we did go down for a while, but we are coming back."
Lindor: "We hope the young people in Puerto Rico understand that Javy and I grew up with very few things, but we had the support of our parents, the support of our family and the desire and hunger to excel. I hope they understand that one can achieve anything, no matter your background. We want to inspire all kids, not only from Puerto Rico, but from all of Latin America. All you need is support and the commitment and desire to be better every single day. I'm living proof that dreams can come true. Everything I do, I do for my family, for the city of Cleveland and for Puerto Rico."