SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Nelson Cruz going above and beyond to help Mariners in 2018

Dec 13, 2017, 1:19 PM | Updated: 2:11 pm
Nelson Cruz is hosting a workout session for Mariners teammates in Miami. (AP)...
Nelson Cruz is hosting a workout session for Mariners teammates in Miami. (AP)
(AP)

A baseball person once told me that the definition of a leader in this game was someone who could take care of his own responsibilities and then have something left over to help someone else – and the willingness to do so. The Mariners have that in Nelson Cruz, who is not waiting for the get-to-know-yous with the newest Mariners in spring training. No, Cruz has taken the initiative to get a number of his teammates, new and old, together in Miami for four days of workouts and talk.

Jerry Dipoto entirely focused on pitching for Mariners

“I was just thinking about how I can help get my teammates better, how I can help myself also and get everybody on the same page,” Cruz said on a conference call between a morning workout and scheduled group dinner.

Ryon Healy, Dee Gordon, Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Guillermo Heredia, Ariel Miranda and Ben Gamel all joined Cruz for the workout Wednesday. These sessions are about much more than just getting in shape, according to Cruz.

Day 1 in the books. Winning starts here. #nodaysoff @mariners

A post shared by Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) on

“Start talking about the ideas, all the goals we are going to accomplish for the season,” he said. “With the new guys, what we are all about during the season and spring training so they get familiar with that.”

The idea to get guys together in the offseason came to Cruz during spring training before last season. He talked to Scott Servais about it at the end of last season and got an enthusiastic endorsement from the skipper.

“I thought it was tremendous,” said Servais. “Really pushed for him to do that, and it really should be done with the players themselves. There’s not going to be any club personnel down there, no coaches whatsoever. Guys just spending some time together in the offseason working out. Any time you can do those things away from the field, it helps with the team building as we go into spring training knowing what’s ahead of us.”

Said Cruz: “We had a lot of fun today before the training, after the training. We are going to have dinner and a lot of talk to get close.”

Cruz was excited to see two of the new players make the effort to get to know their new teammates by joining the group, and is looking forward to seeing the lineup in action with Gordon at the top of it.

“The lineup just keeps getting bigger,” he said. “We can do a lot of things not only with the long ball, but the speed also. They have created a lot of experience on the team, and that’s really exciting. I cannot wait for Game 1.”

The past two years the Mariners have had a great feel in the spring training clubhouse. A lot of focus has been put on making sure everyone feels welcome. That message is important to Cruz, so much so that he took it on himself to get it started early.

“We just want to create the atmosphere that we are family, we are one,” he said.

On that note, Cruz was very appreciative of the visit Mariners CEO John Stanton made to his hometown in the Dominican Republic in October. Cruz said that during the season Stanton had expressed an interest in making an offseason visit, and plans were made from there.

“It was awesome, we had a great time,” he said. “We got to meet with the kids, he got to know my home town. He brought a lot of stuff to give away to the kids. The kids were all happy, he was really happy too. It was amazing.”

Cruz will return home to the DR this weekend where he will get back to work in his state-of-the-art gym. He has been working out for some time now, recently started throwing and on Monday the American League’s top RBI man in 2017 will pick up a bat for the first time this winter. We’re less than two months away from when he reports to spring training, and by then he will know that not only has he done everything he can to prepare for the season, but he’s helped others as well.

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Drayer: Nelson Cruz going above and beyond to help Mariners in 2018