A local student athlete recently returned from playing in the USA Baseball 13U National Team Identification Series, where he and his teammates brought medals back to Southern California.
Derek Cruz, 13, practically lives, eats, and sleeps baseball. The 8th grader at Los Alisos Middle School has played America’s pastime since the young age of 4.
“As soon as I picked up a baseball, I loved it,” said Cruz.
Cruz started at West Downey Little League, however needed more of a challenge after only two years.
“That started getting way too easy,” said Cruz. “So I joined travel ball.”
Cruz, who usually wears jersey number 9, currently plays for the Top Tier Gamers as a pitcher and shortstop – the latter being an extremely appropriate position, due to his being named after famed Yankees player Derek Jeter.
However, Cruz recently put on a new jersey – that of the USA Baseball 13U Southern California team – at the National Team Identifications Series, representing his state and community on a national scale along with 12 other players.
Cruz - now wearing number 22 – and his team performed extraordinarily well during the single elimination tournament that took place in Cary, North Carolina, taking second place overall.
While proud of his and his team’s achievement, Cruz is definitely not completely satisfied.
“All the teams that we faced, we could have beaten them,” said Cruz.
What went wrong?
“It was the pitching rotation,” said Cruz, who explained that rules regarding days of rest per pitches thrown left his team’s usually strong pitching squad vulnerable in the last game.
“Second place isn’t bad, but it’s not first,” said Cruz, chuckling. “I’m still grateful and blessed that I had the opportunity and made it.”
There’s still time for Cruz’s career to develop, however he has sights set for the pros in the future. Cruz hopes to play ball for UC San Diego before eventually stepping onto a Major League Field, where he sees himself wearing Dodger blue or Yankee pinstripes.