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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Nandi Cruz ran hard, helped his teams late; Saw five pro seasons, made high-A

The ball off Nandi Cruz' bat in this July 1988 contest didn't appear to be going through, but he ran hard toward first, he told The South Bend Star Tribune afterward.

Cruz had stepped to the plate in the midst of a ninth-inning South Bend rally, the game tied, The Tribune wrote.

"It was a fast ball, but I thought it was routine and I was going all out to try and make it closer or maybe beat it out," Cruz told The Tribune of the hit that eventually popped over the shortstop's glove into the outfield. "I didn't know it was a hit until I saw everybody jumping around."

Cruz picked up that game-winner in his second pro season. He went on to see three more. He topped out at high-A.

Cruz' career began in 1987, taken by the White Sox in the eighth round of the draft out of Southview High in Lorain, Ohio.

He started with the White Sox in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He hit .289 over 26 games. He then moved to single-A South Bend for 1988. He hit .252 over 108 games there.

Cruz then split 1989 between South Bend and single-A Sarasota, but saw only 55 games between them. In late July for South Bend, Cruz helped spark another ninth-inning rally by getting on with a two-out bunt. He then came around to score, The Tribune wrote.

"I was kind of struggling with the bat," Cruz told The Tribune. "But I was confident if I put (a bunt) down it would work."

He hit .205 over those 55 games. He then returned to Sarasota for an abbreviated 1990. He saw just 12 games. He moved to the Blue Jays for 1991 and high-A Dunedin. He saw 64 games and hit .224 to end his career, his final years slowed by knee injuries.

"It was a humbling experience," Cruz told his hometown Lorain Morning Journal of the minor leagues upon is election into the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. "I remember stepping off of the plane and realizing that I was just a small fish in a big pond. I had to start from scratch, but it was a valuable learning experience, both as a player and as a man."

Cruz has continued involvement in youth sports, as an umpire for baseball and softball, his Hall of Fame writeup reads.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,814
Made the Majors:1,285-33.7%
Never Made Majors:2,529-66.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:526
10+ Seasons in the Minors:321

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