The moving boxes scattered about the Dodgers' spring training clubhouse at Camelback Ranch reflected a baseball team on the verge of returning home to start the regular season. The boxes belonged to individual players, their names prominently written in black ink on both sides and their personal belongings packed neatly inside. Soon they'd be taped up and loaded onto the moving truck parked outside. Destination, Los Angeles. The boxes were more than just a means to transport personal property, though. They were a badge of honor of sorts, proof you made enough of an impression to earn a job and head north with the Dodgers. Which made the box with the name Luis Cruz written on it so fascinating. Less than a year after seemingly coming out of nowhere to help stabilize the left side of the Dodgers infield but more than a decade after beginning a long, frustrating grind that seemed destined to end as an obscure, career minor-leaguer, the 29-year-old Cruz is on his way to Los Angeles as a member of the Dodgers. After playing more than 1,200 minor-league games with four different organizations in cities like Altoona and Fort Wayne and Mobile and Round Rock - just good enough to fill a position in an organization but never quite excellent enough to earn a spot in the big leagues - Cruz was breaking camp as the Dodgers' starting shortstop, where he will play until Hanley Ramirez returns from a thumb injury sometime in May or June. At which point Cruz is expected to slide back to third base, a job he earned over 78 solid games through the final two months of last season and then cemented with a steady, effective performance this spring. In short, Cruz finally made it. "Everything he's been through, there's a lot of perseverance in there," Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. And that box headed to Los Angeles with his name written on it proved it. "It means everything," Cruz said, his mind wandering to Opening Day on Monday, when he will stand at attention during the national anthem at Dodger Stadium. Scattered somewhere in the sold-out stadium will be his entire family, each member making the trip from his native Mexico to cheer him on. Including one very proud father. The elder Luis Cruz is a former Mexican League baseball legend whose career fell short of the major leagues. To be at Opening Day to watch his son play for the Dodgers will complete a dream that has spanned two lifetimes. "It's going to be big. For me and for him," Cruz said. "He never got the chance to play in the big leagues so I'm living his dream in my dream, together. It's going to be special." Just being there will be significant for Cruz. For the first time in his career he's an every-day member of a big-league team, and nestled in his back pocket is a little bit of security in the form of an organization that believes in him. In other words, everything he never truly had over a 12-year career in which a lack of faith, politics and a numbers game always worked against him.
Luis Cruz is on cruise control for Dodgers
L.A. Daily News | Mar 29