One of the toughest parts about being a professional athlete is being traded and having to adjust a new city and often times a new location. It normally happens to everyone, from the superstars all the way down to the backups and minor leaguers.
After spending nine years in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, Tony Cruz was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor leaguer Jose Martinez. For Tony Cruz though, the changes aren’t that major.
To start off, the move from the Cardinals to the Royals isn’t exactly a trip across the country. While joining a new team is always going to be an adjustment, the adjustment period is a lot easier when you remain in the same state, as Cruz gets to play for his second team in the Show Me State. It also helps, when you have experience under your belt. It helps even more when you get to learn under the tutelage of Yadier Molina, a luxury Cruz received as a young catcher.
“Yadier was always there and a huge help giving me pointers and stuff,” Cruz said. “He’s one of the greats and a great baseball mind and a great guy to just pick his mind.”
Watching Cruz play, it’s not difficult to notice where his game compares to the great Cardinals catcher. The way Cruz receives pitches behind the plate is noticeably similar to the way Molina does, so it should come as no surprise that Cruz is able to frame pitches effectively.
The move for Cruz is also eased thanks to the quality of the Cardinals’ organization. He leaves one of baseball’s best teams in St. Louis to join the defending world champion Royals, getting to continue on with one of baseball’s elite as of late.
“It was a fun time playing there (St. Louis) for four or five years, but I’m excited to be here in Kanas City for new opportunities” Cruz said.
Over the course of five seasons in St. Louis, Cruz appeared in 259 games, registering a .220/.262/.310 slash line with five home runs and 58 RBI, while backing up Yadier Molina all five years. One of the benefits for Cruz in Kansas City is that he will not face any sort of high expectations on his new team.
As in St. Louis, Cruz will serve as a backup to catcher Salvador Perez which could give him an opportunity to pass down some of what he learned from Molina to the young All-Star. That is assuming of course, that Cruz makes the team which is understandably one of his goals for the upcoming year.
“My first goal is to try and make the team, and second is to get to know the guys and get along with the guys, and take it one day at a time and hopefully come out with another championship season” Cruz said.
Over his years in St. Louis, Tony Cruz has proven himself as a solid defensive catcher. The tutelage of Yadier Molina has no doubt served to help him develop the most valuable part of a backup catcher’s game — his ability to step in and seamlessly handle a pitching staff. Having handed Salvy Perez a rich extension, the Royals will need to begin being more judicious with his playing time in an effort to preserve his health. Having a solid and dependable backup like Tony Cruz will make it much easier for the Royals to give Perez much-needed days off.