With only 60 games in each team’s 2020 MLB season, teams have discussed the importance of getting off to a strong start. That goes for players as well, and Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz has been able to execute.
The Twins’ designated hitter on Monday was named American League Player of the Week after going 7-for-13 (.538) with three home runs, two doubles, 10 RBIs and a 1.385 slugging percentage in his first three games. He leads MLB in RBIs and slugging percentage, is tied for the lead in homers, and is tied for third in hits (seven) and batting average.
Many of those numbers came from Cruz’s game Sunday, in which he hit two home runs and drove in seven runs. At 40 years and 25 days old, he became the fourth-oldest player to drive in seven runs in a game (behind Stan Musial, Reggie Jackson and Jason Giambi). Cruz also became the second-oldest player with four extra-base hits in a game since 1901, behind Rickey Henderson.
The honor marks Cruz’s seventh Player of the Week award in his 16-year career, during which he’s made six All-Star appearances. The 2020 season marks his second with Minnesota, after a 2019 campaign that was among his best — .311 average, 41 home runs, 108 RBIs.
And his latest award comes a month after a larger honor: the 2020 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award. Presented during the ESPYS on June 21, Cruz was chosen as the top athlete “whose demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on their community through sports.” Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Cruz has continually given back to his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz — giving the town a fire engine and ambulance, helping build a new police station, gifting wheelchairs and crutches, and annually bringing in dentists and optometrists to give citizens checkups, medicine and eyewear.
Cruz was overcome with emotion when he was awarded:
Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) got emotional accepting the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.
— ESPN (@espn) June 22, 2020
“Through baseball, I’ve been blessed enough to be able to help so many people,” Cruz told ESPN. “The longer that I can play, the longer I can keep helping the community.”
Cruz acknowledges that his blessings come from God. In a 2018 interview with Sports Spectrum, Cruz was asked what Jesus meant to him, and he said, “Everything. From the day you wake up, the day you’re born, every single day I’m here because of Him. I’ve been blessed. Every day I have to thank Him because He gave me more than I was expecting … The simple word is just to follow Him and trust Him.”
When asked about his platform as a MLB player, Cruz said there’s “nothing better than if [fans] know that you are a Christian and you follow God.”
Cruz and the Twins continue their season Tuesday hosting St. Louis.
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