NAPPANEE, Ind. (WNDU) - NorthWood High School baseball player Sergio A Lira Ayala is a dreamer.
“I want to be in the MLB, be a superstar,” Ayala said. “Play there and just love the game.”
The love for the game started for Ayala in his home territory of Puerto Rico. But two years ago, Ayala’s beloved Island of Enchantment was struck with disaster.
“It felt like dragons throwing fireballs at the whole island,” Ayala said. “That was really scary.”
Hurricane Maria hit his hometown of Bayamón, leaving his community devastated. A tree fell onto Ayala’s house.
The death toll in Puerto Rico is now more than 3,000.
“It felt like a new island,” Ayala said. “It felt like a new place where everything was different.”
Two months later, Ayala and his father moved to a place that is entirely different from Puerto Rico: Indiana. Despite growing up in a different culture, he has been welcomed with open arms by the Hoosier community.
“I feel pretty blessed with how people are accepting me,” Ayala said. “No matter how many times I fail at something. They know I work hard, but I’m pretty blessed.”
After spending his first year in high school at Bethany Christian, Ayala moved into the NorthWood district. Now, he’s playing a crucial role for the Panthers in the NLC.
“He doesn’t take many plays off with his voice,” NorthWood head coach A.J. Risedorph said. “He’s very electric, he wants to pump guys up. He wants to be a leader, even though he is a sophomore, which I love. He is able to do that for us, regardless of his background.”
That is because when Ayala steps on the field, Hurricane Maria doesn’t even cross his mind.
“Every time I cross that fence, everything goes away,” Ayala said. “Like all the problems, all of the bad moments. It just goes away and baseball time and just enjoy playing.”
He’s enjoying every moment because he’s lucky to be here.
“Not everyone gets a chance to be where I am and have the support,” Ayala said. “When I came here I wasn’t even close from expecting how blessed I am. So, I am just going to stay humble and keep working hard.”
Despite loving life in Indiana, Ayala said he misses Puerto Rico. Mainly because his mother still lives in Bayamón. Ayala said he misses her every day but knows she is proud of him.