Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his Boston Red Sox counterpart, Alex Cora, hope their historic World Series breakthrough will bring more opportunities for minorities in Major League Baseball.
Cora, the first Puerto Rican manager in World Series history, and Roberts, the son of a Japanese mother and African-American father, will be the first minority managers to guide opposing teams in a World Series when the best-of-seven final opens Tuesday at Fenway Park.
"It should be celebrated. It's part of it," Cora said. "For me, as a minority, to be a manager in Boston, it hasn't been a challenge. Obviously people talk about that. To be able to lead this team, it's amazing."
Roberts said Monday he doesn't spend much time pondering his place in history alongside friend and former teammate Cora.
"But when I do, it's special," said Roberts. "And it's not about myself or Alex. Just to see minorities get opportunities and perform and do well, I think that that gives opportunities for others.
"So there's responsibility that I know that Alex shares and I do to do things the right way and to be good leaders. And so up to this point I think we've done a pretty good job.
"To look across the field and see a minority in the dugout certainly is exciting."
Roberts, on a committee aimed at greater hiring diversity chances, sees progress but says there is room for more.
"I hope more minorities get opportunities," he said. "I think there could be more, certainly.
"Being on the diversity committee and trying to get opportunities and hire positions for minorities, men, women, I think that the needle is moving. Maybe not as quickly as most people would like, but I'm always encouraging minorities to get opportunities."
- Puerto Rico stands tall -
Cora feels proud to help bring a lift to Puerto Rico as the Caribbean island still struggles to recover from the damage inflicted last year by Hurricane Maria.
"I'm proud representing not only all the Puerto Ricans that live on the island, but Puerto Ricans all around the world," Cora said.
"We know what happened last year. It was a tough one. And Maria kicked our ass. As a country, we've done an outstanding job fighting. We're standing up on our own two feet.
"I know there's a lot of people back home they're proud of me, of what I've done throughout the year. But I'm proud of them. It's almost back to normal."
Cora could become only the fifth rookie manager in 114 editions of the World Series, the first since Arizona's Bob Brenly in 2001.
And this marks the first time both managers have each played for both teams in the World Series.
Cora played for Boston from 1998 into 2004 and played the next four seasons for the Dodgers. Roberts played most of three seasons for the Dodgers before a 2004 trade to the Red Sox, who won their first World Series crown since 1918 with his help.
It's the first time since 2002 that rival Series managers won titles as players, Roberts in 2004 and Cora in 2007, each with Boston.
Red Sox opening-game pitcher Chris Sale says Roberts should be applauded by Boston fans for his contributions in 2004.
"Bringing the first World Series after a long time like that is a big deal," Sale said. "I think our fans will do the right thing."
- Friends fight for title -
Roberts felt the memories when he arrived back at Fenway Park.
"I've got nothing but great memories. You drive up to Fenway Park and it all just kind of comes back to you," he said. "Alex and I were former teammates and very good friends and to see our different paths and where we've come, it has really exceeded all of our dreams."
The friendship will be set aside for a week or so until the crown is decided.
"We're friends and we respect each other, but they want to win four to win the World Series and we want to do the same," Cora said. "I really wish him the best but hopefully we can finish on top."
© 2018 AFP