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Dodgers step up to the plate for new homes in Puerto Rico

A Martinez talks with Kike Hernandez
A Martinez talks with Kike Hernandez
Julia Paskin/KPCC

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Baseball season opens tonight, with the LA Dodgers taking on used-to-be-archrival San Francisco Giants. 

The Dodgers closed out spring training with a win in the "Freeway Series" against the Angels -- which ended a bit early after a sewage leak seeped onto the field.

If you rewind six months ago, back when the Dodgers were barreling their way toward the playoffs, player Kike Hernandez will tell you that his heart and mind were 3,000 miles away.

His home of Puerto Rico was being pummeled by successive hurricanes - Irma, then Maria. Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed.

Today, many in Puerto Rico are still without permanent shelter, electricity or steady access to clean water. 

Hernandez and his fiancee, Mariana Vicente, have been doing some work off the field, raising money to build homes in Puerto Rico with Habitat for Humanity

The Dodgers stepped up to the plate, as well -- with a $2 million donation to Hernandez's efforts.

Returning to Puerto Rico 

It only took me a drive from the airport to the house where I grew up to just be completely heartbroken. To go back home two months after the storm hit and to see the condition that the island was still in was really hard for me. You see all the pictures, you see all the videos, you hear everything that's going on, and you talk to your families and they tell you everything. But it's not until you actually go there and see and get to know what the situation is like. And the amount of trash, the island not being as green as it used to be– it was just hard. 

Baseball a refuge from the storm

I feel like baseball is a blessing for me. Out of the 24 hours of the day, those were three or four hours that my mind wasn't back home. As soon as the game was over or right before the game started, it was just hard to see everything that was going on. It was a very helpless feeling being here and not being able to do anything so, for us to be able to come up with this whole project and be able to give something back, it means the world to me.  I know how helpless I felt when it hit and I couldn't do anything about it because my obligation was to be here, and there was nothing I could do.

Working with Habitat for Humanity

To have the satisfaction of putting $2.2 million into building thousands of home is that much bigger to me. To put a roof over families that need it so badly... I think was really important.