If you were to ask me what a complete Major League Baseball player looks like, I would have to open up the baseball digest and show you a picture of the Tampa Bay Ray's Nelson Cruz.
Cruz is a guy who has done some incredible things on the field.
He hits homers, hits for average, and naturally drives in runs. He is a designated hitter however if you asked him, he would prefer to play the field and was no slouch when put in the outfield.
But, one of his best attributes is that he has always been a natural leader.
In the clubhouse he has led by example, but if he has to have a conversation with a teammate in order to protect him from himself or just to offer some simple advice, he is always there for them.
I have been fortunate to meet his parents and I can see how they have influenced him. Mr. and Mrs. Cruz are both educators in the Dominican Republic. I understand why Nelson has so much respect for them.
Throughout the years, I always run into Nelson at one charity event after another. People say that I’m tireless in my community work — no, my friend Nelson is.
A recent event that really touched my heart was when he found out that children in Venezuela didn’t have enough milk. He put together a program so that no child in the country was without milk.
What really hit me was that he comes from a poor country, yet also felt the need to help another. This reminded me of a saying that George Steinbrenner used to say to me, “Forget about labels…if we can help anyone just do it!”
Last year, Nelson won the biggest humanitarian award that a professional athlete can win, The Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.
When it was announced, he cried. I cried for his happiness.
He doesn't do this for the awards, he does it because it comes from his heart. But when you think of Muhammad Ali’s efforts to make the world better, then to be put in the same plateau as Ali is truly incredible.
This year, Cruz won the Roberto Clemente Award. To be honored by your peers with that award is a wonderful thing.
When I mentioned this to my wife Theresa, who knows nothing about baseball, but knows of Nelson’s humanitarian efforts she responded by saying, “Doesn’t he win that award every year?” I thought that was a cute question and I have to agree with her.
Nelson is 41 years old now, yet he is still a productive hitter who hit 30 plus homers this past year.
The MLB still needs Nelson Cruz the player, but more importantly baseball and the world need Nelson Cruz the man.
Do you hear me Cooperstown?
Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Read Ray Negron's Reports — More Here.
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