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.