Cruz named Man of the Year by his peers

October 22nd, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- It doesn't take much time around the Twins' clubhouse for it to become apparent that readily commands the respect of his teammates, coaches and executives around the organization. It should come as no surprise, then, that the reverence also extends to his peers around the league.

On Thursday, the MLB Players Association named Cruz as the recipient of the 2020 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, annually awarded to the player that his peers "most respect based on his leadership on the field and in the community."

Cruz is the third Twins player to be honored with the award, joining Torii Hunter (2007) and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (1998). Cruz also joins an elite echelon of recent winners known for their respect and admiration around the league, including Curtis Granderson, Anthony Rizzo, Adam Jones and Clayton Kershaw.

The players conducted voting for the award in mid-September. Cruz was one of three finalists, with Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.

The 40-year-old Cruz has no shortage of reminders that his community service work at every stop in his lengthy MLB career and in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic, has been appreciated. He was the recipient of the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs and is also the Twins' nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award.

Cruz doesn't do any of this work for the recognition, but he's still grateful for each accolade that rolls along, reinforcing his belief that he's making a difference. The $10,000 grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust towards Cruz's charitable efforts also helps.

"It's telling me that I'm doing the right thing," Cruz said earlier this season. "It's telling me that I have to keep pushing forward for what's best for my community. My community definitely looks totally different from what it was before. ... And hopefully, I can help our community more and just look for different ways to get better. That's my goal. I want to leave the world a better place than the one that I found, and I think that's why I'm trying to keep going with what I'm doing."

That's in addition to the $100,000 grant he received from the ESPYs earlier this season, which he planned to use for a new computing center in his town aimed at teaching young athletes technical skills to supplement their education and prepare them for life after sports. He hoped to dedicate a large chunk of time this offseason to that endeavor.

Cruz had also been eyeing a new ambulance for his community, replacing an old vehicle that he had donated many years ago.

The release from the Players' Association specifically cited Cruz's energetic leadership through his Boomstick23 Foundation and the donations of a fire engine, ambulance and police station to his hometown. More recently, he also helped lead a $400,000 donation to the D.R. from MLB, the Players' Association and the Players' Trust to battle food insecurity caused by the pandemic.

Cruz had already been quietly working behind the scenes with a local church, his family and a small army of drivers to purchase and donate food to more than 1,000 families in his community.

Cruz's work ethic is already permeating through his clubhouse, as Miguel Sanó has followed his mentor's leadership with work to support his own community in the wake of Hurricane Laura's path of destruction through the Caribbean. And as this most recent award shows, players around the league also want to show Cruz their appreciation for his impact far beyond the mighty swings of the bat that have led to consecutive seasons leading the Twins in homers.

"We should feel that responsibility that we need to help," Cruz said earlier this year. "God gave us the blessing to play this beautiful game and to be in a better situation than most of the families in the Dominican, so it's a beauty to be able to help."