KANSAS CITY, Missouri — There have been possibly 30 folks inside Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, busy placing down seats earlier than the sport. However everybody turned once in a while to listen to the impression of the bat and see the place the ball landed.
Contained in the cage, along with his Ken Griffey Jr.-style backwards hat and sleek left-handed swing, was baseball’s latest pearl. Ellie de la Cruz despatched strains to all corners of the gardens or deposited the balls within the stadium seats or fountains.
An hour later, De La Cruz lastly entered the visiting dugout, accompanied by a handful of Cincinnati Reds teammates.
It was 2:58 pm. The primary launch was 4 hours away.
Few gamers who’ve the banner of baseball’s greatest prospect defy expectations from day one. Extra uncommon, a prodigy like De La Cruz, a 21-year-old infielder who hit each side of the plate and whose first week within the majors was legendary.
In his first collection within the majors, De La Cruz crushed a 92-mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard and the ball traveled 458 ft in a streak from Nice American Ball Park. In the identical recreation towards the Dodgers, the taller prospect ran from residence plate to 3rd base quicker than anybody this season. He launched a 96.6 mph missile to first base.
De La Cruz is just the second participant since a minimum of 1900 to file a single, double, triple, residence run and stolen base in his first three video games, in accordance with the Elias Sports activities Bureau. The opposite was Phil Bruton of the Milwaukee Braves in 1953.
“Truthfully, he’s doing actually superb issues on the diamond,” Reds supervisor David Bell mentioned. “The humorous factor is, what he was capable of contribute helped us win quite a lot of video games.”
That’s one thing that hasn’t been seen in Cincinnati these days.
The Massive Crimson Machine rusted away many years in the past. The 1990 World Collection championship within the midst of two dangerous seasons — although there have been some blissful moments — is the norm. The Reds misplaced 100 video games final season and have misplaced seven of the final eight full seasons since 1982. In 2020, they went 31–29 within the playoffs in a season shortened by the Covid-19 pandemic and received the wild card spherical.
Throughout this time Cincinnati had many stars equivalent to Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto. Others by no means took off: Brandon Larson, Christopher Kruler and Ryan Wagner.
Maybe it was that advantageous line between success and failure that prompted De La Cruz to indicate up on the ballpark so early that Tuesday.
Within the collection opener towards the Royals, he went 0 for five, was dismissed twice and was confused. However he instantly tried to revive confidence.
She wore darkish glasses on prime of her hat, however she by no means moved her head, and nonetheless, she stored hitting balls in every single place, as a couple of teammates watched.
“There’s positively an adjustment. There’s a change,” Bell mentioned. “He needs to verify he’s doing all the things proper within the dressing room. It’s all very new. I stress, I’m going again to the calmness of the change. It has quite a bit to do with how folks within the firm have ready it and, on the whole, not being afraid to ask questions.
De la Cruz has been with the Reds since 2018, when he was signed as a world free agent. 16 years outdated then. He made his debut within the Dominican Summer time League the next 12 months, however didn’t play all of 2020 when the minor league season was canceled as a result of pandemic. He was nonetheless enjoying as a freshman two years in the past, earlier than lastly shifting as much as Class A.
Nonetheless, at the moment, his potential was already evident.
De La Cruz shuttled between Class-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga final season, the place he impressed sufficient to signify the Reds within the Futures Sport.
Come fall, the workforce positioned him on the 40-man roster to guard him from Rule 5, after which he impressed once more in spring coaching earlier than sending him to Triple-A Louisville.
He hit .298 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs and 11 stolen bases earlier than an harm to Nick Sensel opened up a spot in Cincinnati.
“Many Dominicans hold coming as much as me, congratulating me and saying, ‘That is just the start,’” mentioned de la Cruz, whose household of 5 brothers and three sisters continued their journey within the Dominican Republic.
Amongst his mentors have been teammates Ketel Marte (Diamondbacks) and Onil Cruz (Pirates).
“They each congratulated me and instructed me to stick with it,” De La Cruz mentioned.
Not like many Reds prospects who’ve to hold quite a lot of expectations on their shoulders, De La Cruz doesn’t need to chase it alone.
Matt McClain seems within the prime 5 in All-Star voting, fellow infielder Spencer Steer additionally continues to play, and one other rookie, Andrew Abbott, earns a spot within the beginning rotation.
They create a refreshing youthful core. They’re versatile, energetic and promise a vivid future.
Like de la Cruz, the one in the course of all of it.
“What can I say? I reside to provide my workforce an opportunity to win,” he mentioned. “I’m doing my greatest.”