Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz, family express importance of volunteerism

June 26th, 2024

Volunteers are an essential part of Freestore Foodbank’s operation, which strives to eliminate hunger throughout Reds Country. It takes about 60,000 volunteer hours to help distribute the 40 million meals the foodbank supplies in Cincinnati and beyond. On Tuesday afternoon, Reds pitcher and his family joined in the effort with a shift at the Bea Taylor Market.

Families are welcome to shop at the market twice per month from January to October and once per month in November and December. It offers a wide variety of goods so families can hand-select items that fit their needs. From corn meal to fresh produce, and everything in between, the market is also designed to include versatile products that families can enjoy in multiple meals.

Cruz appreciates the way Freestore Foodbank provides for Reds Country, and he wanted to get his family involved in the organization. So, he took an afternoon adventure to Freestore’s new headquarters in Riverside, just a 10-minute drive from Great American Ball Park.

“I think we were made to give. It feels so much better to give to them than to receive,” Cruz said. “For me, it's more important than baseball and anything because it's all of our lives. People taking care of people. I think that that's what is more important, not only for me, but for the Lord. And I think it’s the best thing that could happen to any athlete.”

Cruz and his family arrived right before the market opened at 11 a.m., and it wasn’t long before they were clad in black Freestore aprons, carrying boxes. The family meticulously restocked the bags of raisins, bottles of jellies and cans of green beans. They collaborated with other volunteers around the store to ensure all shelves, and shoppers, were cared for.

While Cruz spent time arranging a display of canned salmon, his children and wife, Omaley, passed out bags of Sour Patch Kids Strawberry to families waiting to shop. The kids were eager to meet everyone and went through several boxes of candy doing so. Cruz was overjoyed to see his family connecting with the crowd.

Cruz loves volunteering and it’s sweetened by the fact that his kids do, too. One of his sons even went back to the warehouse to grab more stock before he realized it was time to leave. The right-hander is grateful for the opportunity to bring his family along with him to serve.

“[Volunteering] just teaches them good values to give from their age and growing up. It’s just a matter of hard work, working hard to get what they want. To be able to give back, and teach them at the same time, that just made me feel amazing,” Cruz said.

Unafraid to spark up a conversation himself, Cruz also mingled at the market. He chatted with shoppers as they passed through his aisles and even posed for a few selfies between trips to the warehouse for more bottles of mayo.

Donating his time before a game is something Cruz looks forward to. It didn’t necessarily matter that the Reds were scheduled to play the Pirates in a few hours because Cruz was locked in on aiding the community outside the ballpark. To him, they’re just as much family as the group standing next to him in white jerseys with “Cruz” on the back.

“We're all about family,” Cruz said. “Being able to give back to the community and see those faces, even that when they don't have what we have, and they're smiling, and they’re really happy, it's just amazing.”

The Reds and Freestore Foodbank also work together on the club’s Reds Country Cares program, which highlights a different cause or initiative each month during the season and spotlights organizations helping the community. The month of July is focused on the fight against Poverty & Hunger, with Freestore as one of the partners dedicated to helping that cause. For more information on Reds Country Cares, visit