Nelson Cruz of the San Diego Padres hits a solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Petco Park on June 16, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
Nelson Cruz, 43, will play for the Gigantes del Cibao for the final time in LIDOM this winter. The news was first reported by Z101digital reporter Hector Gomez and ESPN.com.do on September 18.
Cruz, born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic, was originally drafted by Gigantes del Cibao in 2006.
The Gigantes del Cibao were founded in 1996 and have won two LIDOM championships, in 2015 and 2022.
Cruz debuted with Gigantes del Cibao in 2006 and last played for them in the winter of 2013. In five seasons with Gigantes del Cibao, Cruz hit 16 home runs, 68 RBI, and an OPS of .906 in 372 at-bats.
Z101digital reporter Sussey Jimenez covers the Gigantes del Cibao and confirmed the deal.
“The reason he didn’t play for Gigantes del Cibao in recent years was because he was in Major League Baseball. He’s not going to get paid because they don’t have the money to pay him. He will get benefits, and he’s asking the president of Gigantes del Cibao to play as a favor for his last go around in baseball,” Jimenez said.
The Gigantes del Cibao’s public relations manager Junior Marille feels that Nelson Cruz is undoubtedly the best player in the history of Gigantes del Cibao.
“Nelson Cruz returning to play in winter baseball is a great privilege for the fans, not only of Gigantes del Cibao, but for everyone, since we are talking about one of the best players in the history of our league,” Marille said.
He also talked about the meaning that Nelson Cruz has to the Dominican Republic community as a person.
“Nelson’s value goes beyond the field, he is an example for youth as a player and above all as a humble and respectful human being. His charisma is infectious as a teammate,” Marille said.
Cruz played three seasons in the Dominican Summer League from 2001-03. In eight seasons in the D.R., he has 33 home runs, 116 RBI, and a .297 batting average.
Cruz was also a player and general manager for the Dominican Republic at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The D.R. ultimately fell short and was eliminated in pool play of the WBC.
Last December at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Cruz talked about how important winning the WBC would be to D.R.
“It would mean everything if we don’t get the championship, it’s a failure for our country,” Cruz said.
Cruz was hopeful that they could win and bring joy to his country like he did as a player in 2013 when they won the WBC. Cruz was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team that season. He had a .303 batting average and six RBI in the tournament. Cruz played in the WBC four times, making his first appearance coming in 2009 and he also played in 2017.
Cruz played 19 MLB seasons and made his debut in 2005 with the Milwaukee Brewers, spending the majority of his MLB career with the Texas Rangers from 2006 to 2013.
He helped lead the Rangers to the World Series in 2011 and won the ALCS MVP against the Detroit Tigers. Cruz set an ALCS record with six home runs and 13 RBI and hit eight home runs in the 2011 postseason. The Rangers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
Cruz spent four seasons with the Seattle Mariners and three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He also spent one season each with the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and Washington Nationals.
From 2010-19, Cruz hit 346 home runs, which was the most of that decade.
Cruz signed a one-year deal for $1 million with the San Diego Padres on January 23 and had five home runs with 23 RBI in 49 games with the Padres. His OPS was .684, and he was designated for assignment on July 4.
Cruz is a seven-time All-Star and has won four silver sluggers. He has 464 career home runs, 1,325 RBI, and 2,053 hits with an OPS of .856.