Remembering Pedro Cintrón: A Tribute to a Basketball Legend of Ponce

2023-12-01 07:09:00

Ponce – Pedro “Peyo” Cintrón had his last Thanksgiving meal Thursday afternoon in Juana Díaz at the home of his neighbor Walter “Wally” Díaz, a friend for the past 25 years, before heading out to practice. the Vejigantes of Ponce de la Puerto Rican Basketball League.

“Practically, I raised my children, I have three,” Díaz, who is part of the management of the Ponceño quintet, told El Nuevo Día.

On Friday, the manager led his squad to a 94-93 overtime victory over the Caribes de Peñuelas on the Miriam “Betty” Segarra court, a victory that improved the Vejigantes’ record to 4-1 on the young season.

As was the routine, Cintrón reviewed the results of the day with the representative Joel Medina during the Saturday morning, in addition to the work plan and the practices.

“I was going on a trip (to Orlando). We’ll talk on Saturday. We talked about how we had to look for more cohesion in the team. The last two wins were close. I told him: ‘We have to find a way to play better together because we know we have a championship team.’ He was a born connoisseur of the sport,” Medina shared about his last conversation with the mentor.

That same Saturday, Cintrón spoke at around 6:00 in the afternoon with his sister, Haymar Cintrón. He announced that she was with some friends and that he was going for a walk. It was the last time they spoke.

On Sunday, Haymar’s eldest daughter informed her mother that her uncle had not arrived home.

“I didn’t worry much. Maybe you were sharing with a friend or partner. Let her give him a break. He was a young, single man. Reserved. “He didn’t tell us anything (about his life) personally,” said the youngest of three siblings.

Cintrón’s cell phone rang and rang, but no one answered. Haymar arrived at Peyo’s residence on Sunday afternoon and no one was there. At 8:00 pm, he reported him missing.

Cintrón, an admired former Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN) coach with the Maratonistas de Coamo and Leones de Ponce between 2007 and 2011, was found dead at 10:14 pm at the Las Colinas motel, located on PR-502, in the La Yuca neighborhood, in Ponce. He was 51 years old.

Pedro Cintrón assumed the direction of the Leones de Ponce in the 2010 season. (Jose R. Madera)

The death of the strategist left the Ponce community cold. For years, Cintrón was a club leader in the Ciudad Señorial and also at Colegio Ponceño. He also served as a coach for youth national teams. Cintrón left a legacy in the children’s categories in the Pearl of the South.

No signs of violence were found on the body, the Police reported. The Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC) of Ponce is now waiting for the forensic report to know the cause of death.

According to Haymar, the investigator who analyzed the scene gave the family to understand that the death could have been due to a heart attack. There is still no official report of the death.

Agent Luis Casiano, assigned to the Homicide Division of the Ponce CIC, together with personnel from the Police Technical Services Unit, worked the scene. Prosecutor Alberto Flores issued a ticket and ordered the transfer of the body to the Institute of Forensic Sciences (ICF) for the purposes of the autopsy and toxicological tests.

Both Haymar, Díaz and Medina never saw Cintrón suffer from or exhibit any health condition.

“He didn’t express to me that he felt bad. I saw him in (good) spirit,” said Haymar along with his other older brother Pedro Manuel.

Cintron was a basketball worker. Outside of sports, he worked in Guayama at the Sor Isolina Ferré Center. In addition to the Vejigantes, he played for the team from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) of Ponce, in the Interuniversity Athletic League (LAI).

“He sometimes felt physically exhausted. Pedro Cintron never said no. I was always more worried about his players, about the franchise and about us, than about him. That is why Pedro Cintrón was so great,” his friend Díaz stressed of him.

“That’s why this town is going to remember him. Even in my child’s first experience, when he was eight years old, he led the team. We are national champions. Tiredness was something normal that I had perhaps because of work,” Díaz added.

The agent Medina, for his part, recalled that a few months ago Cintrón complained of pain in his joints.

“I told him he had to get checked. She went to the emergency room, I don’t know if she went to San Lucas (hospital), they discharged her quickly. We agreed that he was a cold. That day, he came to lead with a mask because there is an influenza outbreak. He had never given any indication that he had a health condition. She stayed there,” Medina said.

Cintron spent three years in command of the Vejigantes. As the team did not reach the championship, he was replaced by the former leader of the National Team, Manolo Cintrón, in 2022-23. Manolo’s time was short, as a commitment to direct in Mexico arose.

Medina said that the players themselves asked Peyo Cintrón back on the lines for the 2023-24 tournament.

“He was well recognized. He was a great recruiter. A talent scout. He knew every detail about every player. I think there is no player in Ponce who has not passed through the hands of Pedro Cintrón. It is a very big shame. We have cried like never before because he left us very quickly,” said the representative of the Vejigantes.

Pedro Manuel, Peyo’s older brother, inundated with hundreds of calls and text messages offering condolences, attested to his brother’s dedication to the sport.

“A normal day for him was to get home at 11:00 pm after a game or practice, turn on the television on ESPN or any sports channel to study basketball techniques. Sometimes, one would arrive at 4:00 am and you would catch him at that time,” revealed Pedro Manuel.

Cintron was also a player in the BSN. Since 1991, he played three seasons with Guayama, Cabo Rojo and Caguas.

“We both play basketball. He was better than me. Living under the shadow of a star is not easy, but, in this case, I thank God that he was my brother. It’s very nice because in his shadow, I have always heard positive things. It was special,” commented Pedro Manuel.

On Thursday at the Salvador Dijols Coliseum, home of the Vejigantes, Cintrón’s family and team paid tribute to him prior to a game against the Toros de Cayey. Ponce comfortably dominated Cayey 112-72 after shedding tears for Peyo.

“We are so grateful for so many expressions of love. These days, I wake up to videos sent to me of Peyo, which I have never seen. It has been an impressive thing with the calls, messages, visits. In the midst of pain, I feel peace because I see everything he sowed, his harvest coming out of him now. “I am very proud,” concluded Haymar.

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