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A Seattle Mariner Explains How Baseball Helped Him Save His Hometown

“I didn’t know anything about how powerful baseball was.”

Seattle Mariners' Nelson Cruz. Image by Keith Allison/Flickr.

Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners is already known for mashing the offerings of opposing pitchers as consistently as anyone in Major League Baseball. The 2014 home run king has only improved on his long ball totals since signing a four-year contract with Seattle before the 2015 season. But it’s his off-the-field contributions that may be even more prolific.

After years of contributing philanthropic resources both in the United States and his Dominican hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, he launched his Boomstick23 Foundation in 2016. In one of the foundation’s first initiatives, Cruz led a medical drive that attended to the needs of more than 1,200 patients. Here he explains where that philanthropic spirit comes from and why it’s important.

I think everything started with my dad, Nelson Cruz Sr. Seeing my dad growing up, he was involved always with the community. He raised money for creating a cultural club in the town. He tried to find a way to have tournaments so we could play basketball and baseball. I think everything starts with him.

Growing up, my mom and my dad were both my teachers. They really emphasized I get my high school done. Even after I signed my first MLB contract, I had to go back to playing Dominican summer league and go back to school. It was rough at the time, but I really appreciate their advice and them making sure I got that done.

When I saw my dad in the community and me in the big leagues, the dream started growing and growing. I wanted to help kids finish their school, because we have issues in the Dominican Republic with school. I needed to help kids with whatever they need. My foundation focused on those two things: education and sports.

I love my community in Las Matas de Santa Cruz. I have my house there. I have my gym out there. When I’m training and have time off, I’m in the Dominican in my hometown. My uncle is even the mayor.

We are collaborating with Players For The Planet and META Collective to bring sustainable infastructure to Las Matas. We have a lot of needs but because I live there I know exactly what we need. One of the things I first started doing was trying to find a fire truck because we didn’t have one there. In 2012, I started looking around, trying to buy one. I even looked online, and the price was too high. Back then, I was talking to the Texas Rangers’ foundation, and they found a guy who owned fire trucks. We made contact with them, and then I was also able to find two ambulances. I gave one to San Francisco de Macoris and one to my hometown. Everything really started with that, but I always do stuff in the community.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I could not be more pleased with what baseball has done for my life. Not only for me, but for the people around me.[/quote]

I’m very proud of the equipment that I bring to my community. Just knowing about the ambulance and fire truck, what they do on a daily basis really touches me. I have people telling me thank you. They say because you brought the ambulance, my dad or my parent or uncle are alive right now. It doesn’t get any better than knowing you’re doing something to make people’s lives better and helping them to stay alive.

I also work for the foundation Aid for AIDS. We help people in Latin America with supplies for HIV and to get their treatment done in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and all over Latin America.

My idea is to someday get a computer center in my hometown. That is the goal to help those people who aren’t going to school for some reason. I was thinking more about baseball players who left school and maybe spent three or four years playing ball and couldn’t keep playing. They had to go back to school, so we have to find a way to help them out with that so they can go there and get their degree and hopefully help them get a job.

You always have time to do something. I make sure I do what I like to do and help kids and go and share my experience and make sure they understand that if you can dream it anything is possible. We went last year to three or four schools, and I was there talking to the kids, especially the ones who came from different countries. Just sharing my experience and telling them that anything you can dream you can make possible with hard work and effort. You can make your dreams come true.

I had no clue baseball could help me help others. I didn’t know anything about how powerful baseball was. I could not be more pleased with what baseball has done for my life. Not only for me, but for the people around me. My community and family have all benefited from the game.

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