Elly De La Cruz, from humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic to MLB future star

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz poses for a photograph during MLB spring training baseball photo day in Goodyear, Ariz., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. Photo by: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Top baseball prospect Elly De La Cruz took over social media this week when it was announced that he will be making his major league debut on Tuesday. Promoted from Triple-A Louisville, the 21-year-old Top Cincinnati Reds prospect played tremendously well in his big-league debut against the Dodgers, posting the “hardest exit velocities” and “fastest sprint speeds”, according to The Sporting News.

But to get this far in his baseball career, De La Cruz had to move away from his family’s home in the Dominican Republic when he was just six years old. Growing up in the town of Sabana Grande de Boya in the southeast region of the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz would hit tennis balls and rubber balls around, showing his love for baseball at an early age, The Enquirer reported.

His town lacked organized Little Leagues that will train him and others into professional prospects, but De La Cruz never gave up. At age 6, he left home to stay with his coach’s brother on the northeast side of the Dominican Republic where he trained and played in a few leagues near Sabana Grande de Boya.

By the age of 10, De La Cruz felt that he needed to be in a more competitive setting so with the advice of his coach, he moved to the capital city, Santo Domingo. There, he started training at a baseball academy and saw some of his older colleagues getting signed by MLB organizations. De La Cruz believed that he would need to work harder to be noticed by scouts. And he did just that even though the odds were stacked against him. Many of the kids he played with at the time came from wealthy homes and so had the needed resources and other opportunities to get them easily noticed. 

Thankfully, De La Cruz got recognized by the Vilorio family who watched him play so well at a tournament. They gave De La Cruz new equipment and a new place to live, treating him like a son. Now in his teens, De La Cruz at last had the equipment, the team and other items he needed but he was still far away from becoming a pro. He thought of leaving the game and going back home to be with his family but his mother and the Vilorio family encouraged him to not lose hope.

“Nobody really noticed me. Scouts didn’t really like me. In the academy, I wasn’t making the cuts during tryouts, and that’s why I wanted to go back home,” De La Cruz said to The Enquirer. Later, the young talented player had a chance to meet with a Reds scout and he impressed the team in a tryout. The Reds scored him for only $65,000 and the team didn’t think he could become a top prospect. De La Cruz had at the time been ignored by many others.

“Back when he was 15 or 16, he was under-developed, he wasn’t as big as the other kids, wasn’t as strong as the other kids. He wasn’t as fast, didn’t have the best defense. I think he just flew under the radar for a lot of guys,” said Emmanuel Cartagena, Reds Director of Caribbean Scouting, who was one of the scouts who helped sign De La Cruz as an international free agent in 2018.

Throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons, De La Cruz wasn’t on the radar in the Reds organization, and during the pandemic when the Reds cut ties with two minor league teams, De La Cruz worried that he would also be let go. And when that didn’t happen, De La Cruz knew he had the chance to make it big, The Enquirer reported.

“I knew that (not getting cut) meant you had the opportunity to play in a higher league,” he said. De La Cruz joined a local team of other minor leaguers to improve his game. And once De La Cruz made his U.S. debut in 2021 in the Arizona league, there was no doubt whatsoever for the Reds and any other person that a future star had been born. Now the end goal for the career of the Dominican star is to be a Hall of Famer, he stressed.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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