Blue Jays release incredible mini-doc on José Berríos, providing all the hype you'll need for his 2024

Cole Burston/GettyImages

On September 22, 2022, José Berríos took the mound for a Toronto Blue Jays team in the thick of the playoff race. Jays fans had every right to be nervous, as Berríos had developed something of a tendency to melt down throughout the season.

As it turned out, on this particular occasion, Berríos looked especially lost, wide-eyed and forlorn on the mound, on his way to perhaps his worst start of the year, allowing six earned runs over two terrible innings.

On the surface, it was perhaps just another bad game, but behind the scenes, there was more to the story. In the days leading up to the start, Berríos’ home country of Puerto Rico had been ravaged by Hurricane Fiona, with massive flooding destroying buildings and infrastructure, leaving millions without power or water, even as he took to the mound. Surely this would affect anybody, but an incredible new mini-documentary just released by the Blue Jays provides powerful insights into just how immense the weight on his shoulders must have been that day.

Titled ‘Building La Makina,’ the mini-doc takes fans behind the scenes into Berríos’ journey from humble beginnings to the Major Leagues, through the words of his family, his former teachers, and Berríos himself. It is a heartstring-tugging tale of poverty and perseverance, of opportunity and determination, the story of “a boy who went after his dream and achieved it,” as one of his former teachers put it.

But it’s more than that.

Many reading this are probably too young to have directly experienced Roberto Clemente, though surely all have heard of the great man. More than just an exceptional player, the Puerto Rico native was one of the greatest humanitarians in sports history, a man who spent his entire professional life providing food, baseball equipment, and other supplies to those in need all across Latin America. For those unaware, Clemente became a near mythical figure after he tragically died in a plane crash while attempting to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in 1972.

While countless people have been inspired by Clemente’s work, what ‘Building La Makina’ makes clear is that few have taken greater inspiration than José Berríos. Throughout the documentary, Berríos expresses a burning desire to follow in the footsteps of Clemente, to use his talent to help families and people in need, and be remembered as more than a great ballplayer, but “a great human being.”

These are more than just words for Berríos. The documentary follows him across Puerto Rico, from events with children to visits with sick hospital patients, to a meeting with the Puerto Rican national women’s softball team, whom he outfitted with gear, and finally, in a great crescendo, to the huge charity event Berríos hosted last month, a celebrity softball game and home run derby that captured the attention of the baseball world, fittingly held at Roberto Clemente Stadium.

All the stars were out for the event, from Francisco Lindor to Julio Rodríguez, to Edwin Díaz, and yes, to Vladdyespecially Vladdy, who provided the event’s viral moment when he hit a towering, almost cartoonish home run off Berríos, who was lobbing it in there like a beer leaguer.

All the stars out, following the lead of one man, José Berríos, a humanitarian leader amongst his peers, a source of hope and opportunity for his community, an inspiration, just like Clemente.

Return to the start of this article, to Berríos on the mound as Puerto Rico, his country, struggled after Hurricane Fiona. One can only imagine the pressure he felt, not just as a pillar of the Blue Jays starting rotation in a playoff push, but as a pillar of his community, not seeking success for its own sake, but to provide an avenue to help others.

As Puerto Rico continues to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Fiona, the story for Berríos has a happy ending. After finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 2022, he bounced back in a huge way in 2023, pitching to 3.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

Whether he can repeat this performance in 2024, or perhaps even improve upon it, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though – of course, Jays fans will cheer for just about everybody on the home team, but if there is one person really worth cheering for this year, it is José Berríos.

How many tears did you shed during the doc? Let me know in the comments or on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.