Cruz Gears Up For 2013 Baseball Season
Posted by Alex Gimenez on January 31, 2013
In 2012, the Big Red baseball team stormed on to the scene in the Ivy League, playing host to their first Ivy League Championship Series victory over Dartmouth and returning to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1977.
At the forefront of the team’s success was then sophomore right fielder Chris Cruz, who broke the Big Red single season record for home runs by crushing twelve big flies over the course of 49 games. The biggest of these home runs came in walk-off fashion against the Dartmouth Big Green in the bottom of the 11th inning of the Ivy League Championship Series, putting Cruz in the Cornell history books forever.
As a sophomore last season, Cruz put together a spectacular year with 12 home runs 35 RBI and a .258/.351/.522 line. He provided the offensive firepower that the team needed to make a run in 2012 and he became the talk of the Ivy League offensively.
But Cruz is far more than your average cleanup hitter. He was second on the team in stolen bases, first in outfield assists, and made acrobatic defensive plays in right field highlighted by a diving catch that sent him hurtling head first into the wall down the right field line. Furthermore, his quiet and humble mentality and lead by example approach make him a favorite among fans, coaches, and the players themselves.
So just how good is Chris Cruz and what should we expect from him as the calendar turns to 2013? If his summer ball play with the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs of the Perfect Game College Baseball League was any indication, the sky is the limit for the Big Red right fielder.
Cruz was named to the league’s top prospect list holding the 6th spot in a field of players that included players from some of the strongest baseball programs in the country, which was no small feet.
“It means a lot because I worked hard all summer and it paid off, there were a lot of good players in the league and to be named above them means a lot”
For Cruz, summer league play was a time to work on his approach at the plate and improve for the future. He wanted to work on certain areas of his game that didn’t see as much success in the past.
“I was trying to cut down on the strike outs and just work on hitting the ball the other way,” said Cruz about his summer league play.
Throughout the regular season, he had trouble when he fell behind in the count and pitchers used their off speed pitches to keep him off balance and the strikeouts piled up as the average dropped. But throughout his time with the DiamondDawgs, he made impressive strides towards changing his luck on breaking pitches.
“About the middle of the summer I started to see all off speed pitches which worked out.,” said Cruz. “I know that now I’m more confident hitting the ball the other way, more confident with the off speed stuff which is generally where the problem is for me.”
With hard work and a good approach, things really started to click at the plate. In 41 games for the DiamondDawgs, Cruz hit 8 HR with 40 RBI while posting a .319/.407/.569 line. In 18 less at bats than the regular season Cruz had more walks, stolen bases, hits, RBI’s, runs scored, doubles, and triples while posting fewer, strikeouts than he did in the regular season.
What is possibly even more impressive, is that he accomplished all this using wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum bats used throughout college baseball’s regular season.
With the start of the 2013 season on the horizon, Cruz recently appeared on a list highlighting the top prospects eligible for the 2013 MLB Draft. In order to appear on prospect lists of this sort, a player must be identified by a professional scout as top draft talent. There is no doubt that even beyond the Ivy League Conference, people are taking notice of Cruz’s accomplishment and talent on a national scale.
“Growing up playing baseball, obviously your ultimate goal from when you’re a young kid at five is you want to play Major League Baseball, so to finally make it on to a list of draft prospects is definitely something that I’m proud of,” said Cruz on Cornell At Bat’s radio show last Tuesday.
Off the field, Cruz is a Long Island, New York native, and a huge New York Yankees fan. He grew up idolizing Yankee greats like Paul O’Neil, Tino Martinez, and Bernie Williams with whom he shares a common Puerto Rican heritage. He attributes much of his success to the love and support that his family has given him over the years and throughout his time with the Big Red.
“They made it to every single home game last year; they have a lot of mileage on the car.”
The Big Red have found themselves a bona fide five tool caliber player in their humble right fielder Chris Cruz. His towering homeruns, spectacular defense in right field, and great respect for the game make him an all around player and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can say a bad thing about him. Keep your eye closely fixed on this kid because you may see him going from Big Red to Yankee blue pinstripes if he can continue to build on his success.
When asked about his expectations for next year Cruz responded, “Hopefully the same thing as last year, just drive in a lot of guys, get on base as much as I can, and do whatever I need to do to help the team win.”
You can’t ask for much more from your star player, humble and driven.