Over the past 6 years Nelson Cruz has made quite the name in Major League Baseball. Since coming into the league he has even landed a major contract with the Seattle Mariners. However, the Mariners’ clean up hitter has not forgotten the reality of life back home in the Dominican Republic. And Cruz is committed to helping as best he can to make things better for his fellow Dominicans.
This all started with a gesture of concern for his neighbors in Las Matas de Santa Cruz five years ago in response to a fire that destroyed the home of one if his lifelong friends. Cruz, with the Rangers at the time, arranged for the purchase of a firetruck that was shipped back home, and he started what is a growing effort to help his countrymen.
“In my community, we didn’t have a firetruck,” Cruz said. “We also needed an ambulance because we don’t have the biggest hospital. When somebody gets sick, or accidents or heart attacks, any emergency, we had to transport those people in trucks or SUVS, nothing that can give you the medical attention you need.”
At first the sticker price of a fire truck was a shock to Cruz.
“It was $300,000, $250,000,” said Cruz, whose salary was $440,000 in 2010, the season before he began the search. “I could not afford that. [The Rangers] helped me contact the fire department in Texas, and they helped me find one. I bought the firetruck, and they donated the ambulances.”
The program has grown since Cruz’s arrival in Seattle, underscored by a foundation he is creating this year to help improve the situation for firefighters and medical attention. He is also stressing education, particularly for young Dominicans who signed pro contracts at the age of 16 or 17 to pursue the dream that Cruz is living.