From Humble Beginnings in the Dominican Republic to MLB Future Star: The Story of Elly De La Cruz

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Elly De La Cruz, a top baseball prospect, swept over social media this week when it was announced that he will make his major league debut on Tuesday. The 21-year-old Top Cincinnati Reds prospect, promoted from Triple-A Louisville, performed admirably in his big-league debut against the Dodgers, posting the “hardest exit velocities” and “fastest sprint speeds,” according to The Sporting News.

But, in order to advance in his baseball career, De La Cruz had to leave his family’s home in the Dominican Republic when he was only six years old. Growing up in the village of Sabana Grande de Boya in the Dominican Republic’s southeast region, De La Cruz would hit tennis balls and rubber balls about, demonstrating his enthusiasm for baseball at a young age, according to The Enquirer.

His town lacked established Little Leagues to help him and others develop into professional prospects, but De La Cruz refused to give up. He left home at the age of six to live with his coach’s brother in the Dominican Republic’s northeast, where he trained and played in a few leagues in Sabana Grande de Boya.

De La Cruz believed that he needed to be in a more competitive environment by the age of ten, so he traveled to the capital city, Santo Domingo, on the advise of his coach. There, he began training in a baseball academy and witnessed some of his older teammates being signed by MLB organizations. De La Cruz believed that in order to get noticed by scouts, he would have to work harder. And he achieved it despite the fact that the odds were stacked against him. Many of the kids he played with at the time came from wealthy families, so they had the necessary resources and other possibilities to get them noticed.

Fortunately, De La Cruz was recognized by the Vilorio family, who had seen him perform admirably in a tournament. They treated De La Cruz like a son, providing him with new equipment and a new place to reside. De La Cruz, now in his teens, finally got the equipment, team, and other elements he need, but he was still a long way from becoming a pro. He considered leaving the game and returning home to be with his family, but his mother and the Vilorio family pushed him not to give up hope.

“Nobody really noticed me. Scouts didn’t really like me. In the academy, I wasn’t making the cuts during tryouts, and that’s why I wanted to go back home,” De La Cruz said to The Enquirer. Later, the young talented player had a chance to meet with a Reds scout and he impressed the team in a tryout. The Reds scored him for only $65,000 and the team didn’t think he could become a top prospect. De La Cruz had at the time been ignored by many others.

“He was under-developed when he was 15 or 16, he wasn’t as big as the other kids, wasn’t as strong as the other kids, wasn’t as fast, didn’t have the best defense. I think he just flew under the radar for a lot of guys,” said Emmanuel Cartagena, Reds Director of Caribbean Scouting, who was one of the scouts who helped sign De La Cruz as an international free agent in 2018.

Throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons, De La Cruz was not on the Reds’ radar, and during the pandemic, when the Reds severed relations with two minor league teams, De La Cruz was concerned that he would be let go as well. When that didn’t happen, De La Cruz realized he had an opportunity to make it big, according to The Enquirer.

“I knew that (not getting cut) meant you had the opportunity to play in a higher league,” he said. De La Cruz joined a local team of other minor leaguers to improve his game. And once De La Cruz made his U.S. debut in 2021 in the Arizona league, there was no doubt whatsoever for the Reds and any other person that a future star had been born. Now the end goal for the career of the Dominican star is to be a Hall of Famer, he stressed.

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