Baseball is a way of life in Puerto Rico. While the island is smaller than Connecticut at 3,500 square miles, it has produced 270 major-league players since Hiram Bithorn broke in as a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs in 1942. Puerto Rico has a rich baseball history and a passion for the sport and continues to turn out players with flair and a love for the game.
When Puerto Ricans and Cubans who had learned baseball in the United States introduced the sport to the island in the 1890s, it was poorly received by the press and the public. But baseball developed a strong following over time, and Puerto Rico would produce five Hall of Famers -- Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar, Ivan Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez.
Yadier Molina, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Javier Baez and Kiké Hernández are among the current Puerto Rican players carrying on the island’s proud tradition as examples for the next generation.
Yadier Molina was born into a baseball family in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. His father, Benjamín Molina Sr., is enshrined in the Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame for his time as an accomplished ballplayer. Yadier and older brothers Bengie and José, who also had lengthy MLB careers as catchers, spent long hours as young boys practicing the fundamentals of the game with their father.
Molina was so advanced as a catcher that his father signed him up for a semi-pro league when he was 15, and he competed against players who were 10 years older than him. Molina took advantage of the opportunity to hone his skills and worked towards one day being eligible for the MLB Draft.
The opportunity arrived in 2000, when the St. Louis Cardinals selected him in the fourth round. Molina made his MLB debut with St. Louis in 2004 and has gone on to win nine Gold Gloves and establish himself as one of the greatest defensive catchers in history. He’s had an impact at the plate as well, with 2,001 hits, a .281 career batting average and 160 home runs.