In a happy (and somewhat surprising) move, the Twins reportedly signed DH slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal for the 2019 season. I call the move “somewhat surprising” because the Twins aren’t exactly known for making big splashes in free agency, and I think this signing actually qualifies as a big splash? It’s at least a upper-middle class big splash.
You’ve probably already heard some fun facts about Cruz, like the fact he’s hit more home runs than another other player in baseball over the past five years, or the fact he didn’t even have 500 PAs in a season until he was 28 years old. These are great facts that should bring warmth to even the coldest and deadest of hearts among Twins fans.
However, Cruz, like any other player, isn’t just a one-dimensional, stat-making machine. He’s a person, god damn it, and I wanted to highlight some other fun facts out there about the Cruz that maybe you haven’t heard of or remembered yet.
1. Nelson Cruz takes a nap before (almost) every game
Every player has a pre-game ritual, and apparently for Cruz his involves sleeping. He is said to take a nap before every game,typically lasting an hour, but sometimes only 30 or 40 minutes. These are professional naps with blankets (or in a pinch, towels). He reportedly once dreamed about Ichiro Suzuki during a nap before a rather successful game at the plate.
It usually takes mean hour just to fall asleep in the first place, so color me impressed.
2. However, Nelson Cruz is not lazy
Don’t let the pre-game ZZZs fool you — Nelson Cruz is anything but lazy. The pre-game naps are part of a strict, all-encompassing routine the 38-year-old follows everyday to keep himself ready to play. “I wish he wasn’t an outlier, but he somewhat is, when it comes to his preparation,” Mariners performance specialist James Clifford told The News Tribune last year. “His routine isn’t just his training. Basically everything revolves around being ready to play at whatever time the game is.”
The Mariners were so impressed with Cruz’s preparation they had other players specifically observe him for a few days in spring training.
Cruz’s routine include mobility training, corrective exercises, soft tissue work, stretching, lifting weights, running, hitting, field work (even when DHing), sleep, and nutrition. The dude brings his own pre-planned meals to the clubhouse and won’t even eat rice in the offseason.
3. Nelson Cruz’s favorite food is rice
Listen to how much Cruz talks about rice in this interview.
4. Nelson Cruz hit his first home run against the Twins
Cruz was a big of a late-bloomer in baseball, hitting the first of his career 360 home runs in 2006 when he was 26 years old. Turns out that first dinger came off the Twins’ very own Willie Eyre! You remember Willie, right?
5. Nelson Cruz’s first love was basketball
Part of the reason Cruz was a late bloomer in baseball is that while growing up in the Dominican Republic — known for it’s strong love of baseball — Nelson Cruz was actually more into basketball. He idolized Michael Jordan and even became one of the top junior players in the country, but later realized he would never be able to make a career out of the sport and turned to baseball. It took Cruz several seasons in the Dominican League to catch up with his peers in the sport.
6. Nelson Cruz’s favorite baseball player growing up was Vladimir Guerrero
Cruz also names Twinkie Town legend Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa among his favorite baseball players, but insists that Hall of Famer and fellow country-man Vlad was his baseball hero. Imagine Cruz’s excitement when Vlad signed with the Rangers in 2010 and invited Cruz over his house to eat! He called Vlad extremely humble.
Bet they even ate rice.
7. Nelson Cruz would rather be covered in all hair than have no hair at all
His idea behind this is that he could shave it off, but he couldn’t do anything about having no hair.
8. Nelson Cruz recently became a US citizen
Despite having played professional baseball in the United States since 2001, Nelson Cruz only became an official US citizen last October. Nelson’s wife and two kids were already US citizens, so it made sense for him to take the plunge too. Plus, it sounds like he was looking forward to voting in November.
Cruz reportedly lives in New York City during the offseason.
9. Nelson Cruz was suspended for PEDs in the 2013 Biogenesis scandal
Remember back in 2013 when a bunch of baseball players were suspended because of a PED scandal involving a clinic in Miami? Like, when Alex Rodriguez went berserk denying he was involved and sued everyone including the Yankees, MLB, and Bud Selig?
Nelson Cruz was part of that. He just accepted his 50 game suspension, though. Later on, Cruz called taking PEDs a “mistake” he made after a contracting a parasite over the offseason that caused him to lose 40 pounds.
10. Firefighters? Nelson Cruz loves ‘em
Nelson Cruz has been very supportive of the firefighters from his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic. Back in 2012, Cruz bought then a fire truck, and later on in Seattle, he coordinated with firefighters there to donate extra supplies to firefighters back home.
Thank you @SeattleFire for the donations for my hometown pic.twitter.com/zxnmAgvAuw— Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) January 22, 2016
Cruz’s support of firefighters isn’t just random.
“It made me realize how bad we needed a fire truck when one of my good friends lost his house because we didn’t have any vehicle to provide water to extinguish the fire. Since that day I was committed to find a fire truck and buy it and make sure we have what we need,” Cruz explained to The Mariners Blog.
11. Nelson Cruz is ready to join the Twins (BONUS FACT!)
The Twins were obviously not the only team showing interest in Cruz. The Rays, Astros, White Sox, and others reportedly showed interest in Cruz this offseason, but he ultimately chose the Twins in what seems like a pretty team-friendly deal.
Just in case there was any doubt, Cruz changed his Twitter profile pic earlier today.
#NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/cuAqHcl83L— Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) December 27, 2018
Do you have any other fun facts about Nelson Cruz? Share below (especially if you are actually Nelson Cruz himself!)