For 250 Dominican pesos, around $4.50, Pedro De La Cruz promises the best car wash in the Dominican Republic. De La Cruz and his employees hand-clean every customer’s walkway, and when he opened Pedro’s Boutique in the town of Sabana Grande de Boyá, the 21-year-old brought with him the same work ethic he used to display in the field of baseball.
As a boy, Pedro was bigger and stronger than his twin brother, and he also worked harder. He just didn’t have the passion of his brother, who fell in love with the game on the little field near his house and wanted to hit, pitch, run and play all day. Pedro’s baseball career ended when he stopped growing as a teenager.
Elly De La Cruz, Pedro’s twin, was not so lucky. Once the dwarf of the couple, he first grew to a skinny 6-footer, projectable enough to entice the Cincinnati Reds to sign him as a 16-year-old in 2018. Over the next three years, he grew a further five inches. Now at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he’s baseball’s newest sensation: an enhanced switch-hitting phenom, the kind of player whose magnetic presence is made all the more inconceivable by the fact that his twin brother isn’t even the average height of men around the world.
Asked how tall he is in a recent phone conversation with ESPN, both speaking through an interpreter, Pedro started to respond before Elly chimed in, sisterly as ever, saying, “Don’t lie.” Pedro chuckled and said, “Well, I haven’t really measured myself in a long time, but it’s around 5-8.”
Elly De La Cruz’s miracle isn’t just the unmatched combination of power, speed and arm strength that has fueled Cincinnati’s rise to the top of the NL Central to a 13-5 record since his arrival. to the majors on June 6. It’s that even in his family, with two average-sized parents and eight equal siblings, he won the genetic lottery, growing 9 inches taller than someone he shared the womb with, a fact that confuses those who don’t know. to the point of demanding proof.
“They still don’t believe it. They say it’s not true,” Pedro said. “So we just have to show people the birth certificate to make them believe.”
The speed of De La Cruz’s rise confounds even the Reds, whose rookie class of 2023, which also includes standout middle infielder Matt McLain, slugging utility Spencer Steer and strikeout aficionado Andrew Abbott, looms large. as a historical player. When Cincinnati first sought him out at the academy of Cristian “Niche” Batista, who also trained Juan Soto, De La Cruz stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 130 pounds. All MLB screeners, especially those in Latin America tasked with searching for tweens, must be willing to take chances, but amid a landscape of babies with million-plus-dollar bonuses, Dean’s $65,000 signing bonus The Cross reflected the vision that the industry had of him: he was a lottery ticket
It wasn’t until after the lost pandemic season of 2020 that the Reds realized they had hit the jackpot. Between the growth spurt and a newfound appreciation for weightlifting, De La Cruz transformed from the 17-year-old who hit one home run in 186 Dominican Summer League plate appearances to the rarest type of player: someone with three tools to break scales. The raw power of him manifested itself in batting practice shots that traveled 475 feet. He glided around the bases with the long strides of another lean 6-foot-5 wonder: Usain Bolt. When De La Cruz threw the ball, he regularly sputtered across the diamond at over 95 mph.
In 2022, De La Cruz hit over .300 at High-A and Double-A, and his 28 home runs at the two levels were by far the most ever for a minor leaguer who stole as many bases as his 47. He went on to hit 12 home runs and steal 11 bags in 38 games at Triple-A this season before the Reds called him up in June to split time between shortstop and third base.
“I saw a lot of stuff on social media saying, ‘Hey, we want you up there. We want you in the big leagues,'” De La Cruz explained. “But when I got that call, that I was going to go there, I thought, ‘Okay, it’s the same game. It’s the same thing I’m going to do every day. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.” common.’
“I mean, this is what I was built to do. And of course I’m going to go out there without thinking about any pressure or anything like that and just go out there and play the game I know.”
In his first week in the majors, De La Cruz hit his first career home run 458 feet, stole five bases, reached third base in an MLB-best 10.83 seconds, and threw a ball at 96 mph . In recent days, he showed off his speed by recording an infield single on a hard-hitting one-hopper to first base and capped his NL Player of the Week-winning performance by hitting a triple in the first cycle of his career. in an 11 -10 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday. After 19 games in the majors, he’s hitting .299/.357/.533 with 3 home runs, 10 RBIs and 8 stolen bases.
ELLY OF THE CRUSHED CROSS
114.8 mph pic.twitter.com/QtnEQF3Yip
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 7, 2023
De La Cruz doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top hype that now follows him, calling himself “The Fastest Man Alive,” and even inscribing the bat he signed for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the nickname . When asked how he stacks up against Bolt, De La Cruz said, “I mean, he’s great at running straight … and I’m great at running the bases.” De La Cruz enjoys that element of the game more than hitting and shooting, he said, “because he energizes his teammates and the fans as well.”
That energy was never more evident than last weekend, when the Reds hosted the best team in the National League, the Braves, and packed Great American Ball Park, a rarity for a baseball-proud city that had been subject to abject mediocrity for the best part of a decade.
De La Cruz said he cares more about what is to come than what has been. Praise for Dominican players Ketel Marte and Oneil Cruz, except that at 6-foot-7, he also breaks industry expectations of what a shortstop is supposed to look like, are appreciated but don’t make his head swell. De La Cruz retreats to his room after games and plays NBA 2K as a 6-foot-4 point guard who creates a player. He wears a medallion around his neck with a photograph of him and his parents the day he signed.
“That’s when the dream started,” De La Cruz said, and it shows no signs of abating. For all the publicity surrounding it, it’s still just Elly. Nothing has changed there, nor, as Pedro said, will he change: “With everything that happens to him and his success, his humility really stands out.”
In her mind, Elly will always be the player who gets overlooked because she looked too much like Pedro, not the player who kept getting bigger, stronger, and better.
“I started to get bigger,” Elly said, “and he got smaller.”
“He started eating all his food,” Pedro replied.
Elly is happy to play Arnold Schwarzenegger to Pedro’s Danny DeVito. (And no, in case you were wondering, neither of us has seen “Twins.”) Whatever Elly did, or whatever blossomed inside of him at the right time, it’s here, and Cincinnati is grateful for it. For the next three months, and likely years to come, Elly De La Cruz will be seeing dates. By far, his twin brother will be watching, whether at home or at the car wash, grateful that any height he lacks is taken by the person who no doubt knows how to use it.