MIAMI — Whenever the topic of his unsettled managerial future beyond 2024 emerges, Alex Cora betrays little anxiety.
He shrugs off questions about the uncertainty that comes with the final year of his contract with the Red Sox, noting that whatever happens after this season — whether the Red Sox do or don’t try to retain him, whether other teams offer jobs — will be subject to a family decision.
But the context of Cora’s family decisions is different than it is for most.
Cora comes from a renowned baseball family. His father, the late José Manuel Cora, founded a Little League program in Puerto Rico and was a baseball reporter and broadcaster on the island. His older brother, Joey, spent 11 years as a big league player and now has more than two decades of experience in the coaching ranks. He’ll serve as the third base coach of the Tigers in 2024.
Every Cora has spent a lifetime in the game. Cora’s brother, mother, and two sisters have a daily group chat during the season that features impassioned exchanges about baseball.
And the preoccupation extends beyond the Coras.
Cora’s partner, Angelica Feliciano, is also from a prominent baseball family in Puerto Rico. Her father was a longtime pitcher who served as the Olympic flag-bearer for the country in the 1988 Seoul Games.
“He’s a legend back home,” said Cora.
And Angelica’s brother, Jésus Feliciano, after a long professional career that included big league time with the Mets, is now general manager of the Caguas Criollos in the Puerto Rican winter league (the same team for whom Cora served as GM and manager) while also serving as executive director of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School.
“He’s doing incredible things,” said Cora.
In fact, the relationship between Jésus Feliciano, 44, and Cora, 48, predates that between Cora and Angelica. Both players were in the Dodgers organization — Cora as a big leaguer, Feliciano as a minor leaguer — in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Later, both were members of the Mets in 2009-10, including when Feliciano made his big league debut as a 31-year-old in 2010.
“He took care of me,” said Feliciano. “He took me under his wing my entire career. I really appreciate everything he did for me.”
Because of the common histories of the two families, baseball is unavoidable. Angelica said through a translator that she and Cora, while raising twin 6-year-olds, have worked “to create a balance” by gaining some separation from baseball during the offseason in Puerto Rico.
In pursuit of that goal, Angelica and Jésus started training this offseason for the Boston Marathon, and Cora took up running, trying — and often struggling — to keep pace. They found time to travel to the disparate destinations of Costa Rica and New Hampshire.
Yet baseball, and specifically Criollos winter league games, had an inescapable pull for a family whose identity is entwined with the sport.
“If it’s up to me, for balance, I’d stay away from it,” said Cora. “[The Felicianos’] parents love going to the game, my sisters, everybody. Sometimes we have to go because everybody is there.”
Despite the offseason efforts to get some separation from baseball, there is considerable joy in the fact that baseball is a family vocation. Last week, Cora and Angelica joined Jésus in Miami to celebrate his induction into the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame — the second time that such recognition had come to a member of the family this winter, following Cora’s induction into the Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame in October.
“I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished on the field, but for people to recognize what they’ve accomplished off the field means more,” said Angelica. “I understand the preparation that goes into it, the sacrifices that come into play through this profession. I love it and I’m proud of it.”
Cora suggested it would have been virtually impossible to navigate his post-playing career without his partner’s familiarity with the demands and dynamics of the game. Through life changes (parenthood with the birth of the twins in 2017, the same year tragedy hit Puerto Rico in the form of Hurricane Maria) and professional tumult — the extreme highs of championships as a Caguas GM and manager, then as Astros bench coach in 2017, then as Red Sox manager in 2018, followed by the devastation of losing the Sox job and his suspension from baseball in 2020 — Cora has benefited from the uncommon perspective of a family that is as engrossed in the game as his own.
“The Red Sox, the whole madness of Boston, winning the World Series, the suspension — without her, no way I survive this,” said Cora. “I appreciate everybody in the family. They understand how it works. What their family has meant to me has been amazing. They’ve been a rock. They’ve helped me overcome a lot of stuff.”
Cora found considerable satisfaction in celebrating the baseball accomplishments of Jésus Feliciano in Miami while also watching with amusement as his 6-year-old boys (one day after suffering heartbreak in the form of a loss by the Criollos in the Caribbean Series) remained glued to every pitch of a semifinal game between Venezuela and Curaçao.
Over the weekend, before Angelica took the twins back to Puerto Rico, baseball provided another special set of family memories. Cora took part in an alumni game against University of Miami players, affording his sons their first chance to see him play in person.
The end of that exhibition game, in many ways, marked the end of Cora’s offseason — and the start of a 2024 campaign in which the Coras and Felicianos will all remain engrossed in every pitch of every Red Sox game.
After the season, a decision awaits, one that Cora will not be making alone.
“The man upstairs has a plan for us,” said Angelica. “We love the organization. They’ve been unreal to us. They’re family. That’s what we love about the Red Sox, but we understand that there’s a business and we’re going to be where we should be in the future.”